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Sign of the Day - ASK
(as in to inquire or ask a question to someone)
Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., founded in 1864, was the first school for the advanced education of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It continues to be the only liberal arts university in the world for deaf students, with all of its programs uniquely designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing learners. However, since its inception in 1864, for over 123 years, every university president had been a hearing person.
A Need For Change
In 1987, Jerry C. Lee announced his resignation as President of Gallaudet University, so the search for a new president began. There were three candidates:
- Elisabeth Zinser, a hearing woman with no previous experience with the deaf community, who was Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
- Harvey Corson, a man born deaf who had graduated from Gallaudet University and was Superintendent of the Louisiana School of the Deaf.
- I. King Jordan, who had become deaf at age 21 due to a motorcycle accident, also graduated from Gallaudet University, and was Gallaudet's Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
In 1988, the predominantly hearing board of trustees announced its selection of Elisabeth Zinser (the only hearing candidate), and the campus community was outraged.
A Demand For Change: The Protest Begins
Photo of a participant at the Deaf President Now Protest in March 1988 wearing a poster of demands. (Photo Credit: John B. Christiansen, Sharon N. Barnartt - Deaf president now! : the 1988 revolution at Gallaudet University, p. 75, via Wikipedia)
Students, alumni, staff and faculty members congregated to undertake what is one of the most famous civil rights movements today: the Deaf President Now protest.
Four student leaders, Bridgetta Bourne, Jerry Covell, Greg Hlibok and Tim Rarus, became the faces of the protest. Protestors barricaded the campus gates, hot-wired school buses to use them as barriers to gates, led two notable marches to the U.S. Capitol, and developed four demands:
- Elisabeth Zinser’s resignation and a deaf person’s selection as president.
- The Board Chairperson, Jane Bassett Spillman’s resignation.
- A 51% majority of deaf people on the board.
- No reprisals against any student or employee involved in the protest.
The seven-day protest generated international media coverage, and brought attention to the oppression and discrimination deaf people experienced on a daily basis. I. King Jordan gave a speech, announcing the need for the whole world to pay attention, and supporting the student demands.
On March 10, Elisabeth Zinser resigned! On March 11, more than 2,500 protestors marched on Capitol Hill with banners announcing, “We still have a dream!” They were determined to see all 4 demands honored.
Participants displaying a "We Still Have a Dream" banner at Deaf President Now protest.
(Photo Credit: Lee, Yoon K. March 1988, Gallaudet University, retrieved from The Purloined Letter.)
A Commitment to Change: Successful Protest Ending
Finally, on March 13th, all four demands were met with the selection of Phil Bravin, a deaf board member, as the new board chairperson, and I. King Jordan selected as President of Gallaudet University. Jordan served from 1988 until 2006 as president, and every president since then has been deaf.
Surrounded by students, I. King Jordan, raises his hands to celebrate his appointment as the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Quote from Dr. I. King Jordan: "Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear."
(Photo Credit: Bettmann (1988, March 13). Getty Images.)
The Right Leader For Change: Deaf And Qualified
Dr. I. King Jordan in August 2015. He served as the eighth President of Gallaudet University from 1988-2006. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Being deaf isn’t enough to be president of a University. I. King Jordan earned a B.A. in 1970 from Gallaudet University, then got an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. He was a faculty member and chairperson at Gallaudet in the Department of Psychology, and was appointed as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Jordan holds twelve honorary degrees and was honored with numerous awards. In 1990, President Bush appointed Dr. Jordan as Vice-Chair of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. In 1993, he was reappointed to this important position. On April 6, 2010, it was announced that Jordan had been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which awards one of the Nation’s highest honors for students.
I. King Jordan served as the eighth President of Gallaudet University from 1988-2006.
After Dr. Jordan stepped down, President Robert R. Davila served a three-year term. After a successful search process in 2009, President T. Alan Hurwitz served a six-year term. Both Davila and Hurwitz are also deaf men.
On January 1, 2016, Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano became the eleventh President of Gallaudet University. President Cordano is the first deaf woman to be officially installed as Gallaudet President.
Due to the success of the historical Deaf President Now protest, initially put into action by Gallaudet students, Irving King Jordan became the very first deaf President of Gallaudet University. Gallaudet students led the way to insuring their university would be governed by a deaf president. They have continued to be active in keeping their dream alive.
See It Signed - Example Sentence
See this example sentence about Jordan:
ASL Gloss: I K-I-N-G J-O-R-D-A-N HIMSELF FIRST DEAF PRESIDENT GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY.
English Example: I. King Jordan was the first Deaf President of Gallaudet University.
More on the Deaf President Now Protest
Adapted from: Cartwright, B. & Bahleda, S. (2015). Lessons and Activities in American Sign Language (pp. 110). RID Press.
- Deaf President Now. (2021, September 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Deaf_President_Now&oldid=1043362758
- Gallaudet University. (n.d.). About Bridgetta Bourne-Firl ‘89. https://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/deaf-president-now/profiles-and-viewpoints/bridgetta-bourne-firl-89/
- Gallaudet University. (n.d.). History Behind DPN. https://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/deaf-president-now/the-issues/history-behind-dpn
- Gallaudet University. (n.d.). Notable Quotes. https://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/deaf-president-now/profiles-and-viewpoints/notable-quotes
- I. King Jordan. (2021, October 29). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=I._King_Jordan&oldid=1052412976
- Kiel, Richard. (1988, March 14). Gallaudet Names Deaf President, Grants Amnesty; Board Chief Quits. Schenectady Gazette, 6.
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There are a few different ways you may see Thanksgiving signed.
This first way has both hands in the open B handshape move forward away from the body. This is probably the most common way you will see it signed.
It is easy to remember because it looks similar to the signs for THANK YOU and VERY THANKFUL.
There are also several regional variations for THANKSGIVING. They each use different handshapes, but the movements are similar, moving from the face to the chest. You can think of the shape of a turkey’s wattle when signing these.
In this one the T handshape starts at the nose and changes to a K handshape at the chest.
This one starts with an almost closed 3 handshape at the chin.
This last example starts with a G handshape at the chin.
The above sign also looks a little simlar to the sign for TURKEY because of the handshape.
Just for fun, here is a coloring page by Deaf artist Mary Klein showing how she signs THANKSGIVING.
In the past, we have shared holiday-themed signs around Thanksgiving (See our article: 10 signs to know for Thanksgiving), but we feel strongly that what’s more important than learning to sign a few signs like turkey and pie, is conversational signs.
If you check out the Sign of the Day each day, you will notice the Sign of the Day for Sunday, November 21 is CONVERSATION (as in "talk to someone in sign language”) because this week is recognized as “Better Conversation Week.” Better Conversation Week is always the week of Thanksgiving and it is the perfect time of year for us to all focus on having better conversations.
Sometimes our deaf family and friends feel excluded when they come home for the holidays. If everyone isn’t signing, they may feel excluded and feel like they don’t have a place at the table. This is a topic we've talked about in the past in the article Being Inclusive This Holiday Season. In honor of Better Conversation Week, in honor of Thanksgiving, and, most of all, in honor of our deaf family and friends, let’s try to sign. Signing is hard and it can be intimidating to sign with a fluent signer when you are feeling insecure about your signing skills, but the number one thing you can do is simply just TRY to sign.
To encourage and support everyone to sign this week, we have unlocked all of our member full example sentences for this week only. This is a member feature, but will be unlocked and freely accessible to everyone this week.
Click on the “Sentences” tab on the Signing Savvy website to get started. We suggest looking at the section on “Conversational Sentences.” There are lots of great examples of how to sign full sentences. We hope that before you know it, you are feeling comfortable signing "How have you been?” and "It’s good to see you.”