25 years ago, Gallaudet students marched on Washington in what would become the largest pro-Deaf rights movement in the history of the world.
However, some of you may say, “What’s the big deal? A few students in one school decide they want a Deaf president, sounds more like a petty student rebellion than world-changing movement.” And you’d be right.
When the first student-lead rally occurred on March 1st, 1988, it was simply that: a bunch of students and some teachers meeting together to promote the idea of a Deaf president at Gallaudet. No one had any idea this would become the most infamous event in global Deaf history.
Let me back up a little and give you the Deaf President Now (DPN) movement in a nutshell. Of the three candidates in the running to become Gallaudet’s president, two were Deaf, both had doctorate degrees, both worked at Deaf schools. The Deaf community was sure they would finally have a Deaf president at their Deaf university. However, on March 6th, the Board of Trustees announced they had selected the sole hearing candidate who did not even know sign language!
Needless to say this did not go over well and the rest is history. What started as a student movement became the Deaf community’s movement and then the world’s movement as the news spread like wildfire. People who had little (if any) contact with the Deaf world recognized the unfairness of it all and sent financial and moral support from nearly every nation across the globe.
Was DPN a petty student rebellion? Yes.
Was DPN a world-changing movement? Yes.
Do I still get the shivers and tear-up when I write about this event? Most certainly YES.
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