[NOTE: This article was written by students in English 385, Fundamentals of Journalism: Amanda Baldeo, Clark Barrett, Myles Barrett, D’Mitri Lofton, Amelia Oliver, Morris Patrick, Brenden Dow, and Tanasha Bennett. It was edited by their professor, Rhea Kennedy Morgenstern.)

On the afternoon of March 30, members of the Gallaudet community and visitors gathered in the College Hall parking lot to celebrate the selection of President Roberta J. “Bobbi” Cordano as a 2023 USA TODAY Women of the Year honoree. The event, hosted by the Board of Trustees, featured food trucks from local Black-owned businesses. Meals were free for all. A similar event was held at Clerc Center. 

By some counts, more than 300 participants were drawn to the food trucks painted bright orange and gleaming black, ringing the parking lot of College Hall. The sky was sunny and the air carried the scents of Thai curry, hamburgers, and french fries.

Celebrating Bobbi at the opening address.

As part of its Women of the Year tribute, USA TODAY recognized Cordano with a feature on its website. The publication selects its subjects from readers’ nominations of “women who have made a significant impact in their communities and across the country.”

“Thank you for being here today to celebrate President Cordano and her recognition as one of 12 2023 USA TODAY Women of the Year,” signed Glenn B. Anderson, ’68 & H-’17, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees chair, in remarks kicking off the event. This strikes him as an earth-shattering accomplishment and a fitting spotlight for the University’s first deaf woman president.

When Cordano addressed attendees, she acknowledged that she had not reached this place alone. Using the metaphor of a surfer and rising tides, she expressed a hope that others would rise above the surface to be recognized. She predicts more spotlights on journeys, struggles and accomplishments within the community.

Attendees included Gallaudet students, staff members, and faculty. Visitors from across the country, who had come to campus for the first Black Deaf Studies Symposium, also joined in. Bianca Hamilton-Miller, an ASL teacher from California, was one of those who took a break from the Symposium to celebrate Cordano’s honor and grab lunch. “I got a burger from Fired-Up,” Hamilton-Miller said. “It’s delicious.” 

Admissions Counselor Rodney Burford, ’23, said the event sent a positive message to Gallaudet employees. “It is great to feel appreciated,” he said, “especially by your boss…it feels good to be told ‘thank you for all of your hard work’ every once in a while.” 

Students line up at a food truck.
Students line up at a food truck.

Undergraduate Nakai Payton stated that it is good to have food trucks; black people own all, and it is perfect to come together and celebrate to associate. She said that she wishes to do this monthly. 

Not every aspect of the event was sunny. One food truck vendor called out order numbers in spoken English, addressing a crowd of ASL users. Then he asked, “Can someone translate?” The waiting customers looked up, but none came forward to interpret or claim the food. Meanwhile, long lines and dwindling supplies left some without a meal.

Regardless, the multifaceted event left a positive impression on many who stopped by. “The president gave a speech to show her appreciation to her staff and students,” commented Byron Moore, head track and field and cross country coach for Gallaudet. “No one can turn down free food, so it was a good experience.”

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