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National Deaf Life Museum
The Deaf President Now (DPN...
In Their Own Words: Students remember the day DPN shut the Gallaudet campus down
Yoon Lee, student photographer
“On the 8th Day of the DPN Movement, around 8 p.m. some students were running toward the Field House and signing, ‘WE WON! WE WON! EVERYONE GO TO THE FIELD HOUSE!’
I was already tired from taking pictures every day and night for the previous seven days. I was excited to hear the news, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure if this was really happening.
Quickly, I went back to my dorm, grabbed my camera bag, and counted out about 10 to 15 rolls of film. I ran to the Field House. Half the gym was already full, and more people were coming. I showed my “Gallaudet Student Press Pass” to get past the security guard. As I sat down in front of the stage, the four leaders started to give their victory speeches.”
“All of sudden, I realized that NO other Gallaudet student press photographer was there! I was all alone, and I began to feel sweaty because I knew I must take pictures, more than enough, and I was worried about my pictures, camera, and flashbulb batteries.”
“As the four leaders took turns signing loudly, ‘WE WON! WE GOT THE DEAF PRESIDENT,’ I took pictures of every angle I could think of, chasing everyone’s face. Then they said, ‘WE WILL MEET OUR NEW GALLAUDET PRESIDENT AT THE EMBASSY ROW HOTEL! OUR NEW DEAF PRESIDENT IS I. KING JORDAN!”
“Everyone was rushing and running out of the gym to go to the hotel. Thank goodness, my car had enough gas, and I was lucky to find parking near the hotel. When I arrived, a pack of professional photographers and cameramen were already there. The amazing thing was that they let me go to the front when I showed my Gallaudet Student Press Pass.”
“I started taking pictures like I was filming everything. You can see them in the book “The Week The World Heard Gallaudet” page 140 to 149, and one of my favorite pictures is the top picture on page 145, where King Jordan and his wife Linda are hugging. I never knew that picture would become famous. I ran back to the Tower Clock yearbook darkroom and developed my pictures that night. The picture of King Jordan and his wife was used the next day’s Buff and Blue student newspaper on the front page and then again for Deaf Mosaic’s Five Year Anniversary video about the DPN Movement.
I also gave a copy of that picture to President Jordan and his wife, Linda, during the 5th anniversary.”
“Through my camera lens, I had mixed feelings. All my life, I grew up with people telling me that hearing people are the normal ones and that they should take care of deaf people. I went to a mainstream school and then to California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I transferred to Gallaudet from CSUN because I wanted to find my true identity as a deaf person. Bang! DPN was happening in front of my eyes. I couldn’t ask for a better way to find meaning as a Deaf person. I was totally speechless, and I felt like I was dreaming because you saw Deaf students, teachers, children, and parents chanting “Deaf President Now” every minute in front of the campus entrance.”
“After watching them for seven days, I felt their signs grow louder and louder. When I first heard their deaf voices, I was embarrassed by what hearing people might think. Remember, I had just transferred three months before. Deep down in my heart, though, I felt ‘fire’ and angry because I just couldn’t bear to accept in my head or heart that deaf people couldn’t do things for themselves. When we were victorious, I felt like I had new freedom and spirit.”
Congressman David E. Bonior
From the transcript of “The Pulse of the People: Ten Years After the Revolution” teleconference on March 13, 1998
Good afternoon President Jordan, and good afternoon to all the participants of this broadcast, “The Pulse of the People.” It was the pulse of the people, ten very short years ago, that changed the way the world viewed Gallaudet University and the way deaf and hard of hearing people viewed themselves. When students, faculty, staff, and friends of Gallaudet stood symbolically, peacefully, and uniformly chanting, “Deaf President Now,” the public saw those chants every day on TV, in the newspapers, not just in Washington but around the country.
The message grew stronger and stronger. The time was long overdue for a deaf president at Gallaudet University. As a member of Congress, I witnessed those chants, and as a member of the Gallaudet Board of Trustees, I felt a special responsibility. When hundreds marched from Gallaudet to Capitol Hill to demonstrate against decades of discrimination and to protest for civil rights, I was proud to meet them. I invited students, and teachers, and alumni, all deaf, into my office, and they communicated with such passion. Their determination was very, very strong. And I remember thinking to myself, “This is the Deaf Selma; There’s no turning back.”
Like many great movements in American history, the Gallaudet protest and march of ’88 was a turning point. The Deaf community looked to Gallaudet for leadership, for inspiration, for hope, and for innovation.
Shortly after the Deaf President Now, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which permanently altered the structure of American business. Together, these two great events enveloped the nation and bolstered the phrase that is often quoted by President Jordan, “Deaf people can do anything, except hear.”
Barbara H. Dennis
“I still have my Deaf President Now pin and a copy of the news release I was asked to distribute. I will never forget the look on students’ faces when they read the headline that Elisabeth Zinser was selected as the first woman president at Gallaudet.
Handing out that release was the hardest job I have ever done. It was tough to walk the fine line of being an objective news person and knowing in my heart that what the deaf community was doing was RIGHT!! It was hard to imagine that the Board of Trustees could be so far out of touch with a community they were supposed to champion.
I have never forgotten the week the world heard from Gallaudet and have shared the Gallaudet story with many, many people. Gallaudet has a special place in my heart, and to this day, I am proud to have been a part of the Gallaudet community and to have experienced the DPN movement.
In my current job, I have had opportunities to interpret (I’m not certified but help when I can) and never hesitate to let people know about the time I spent at Gallaudet and the valuable lessons I learned there. I was given the opportunity to learn to sign and be a part of a vibrant community dedicated to helping students who are deaf be successful.
I’ll never forget talking with students and how important it was to them that people understood that they could do everything a hearing person could do except hear. The DPN Movement and my time at Gallaudet changed my life. I will never forget the experience.”
I was there when they announced that they selected the hearing president, Dr. Zinser. It was like someone slapped my face. I asked myself, “What did we do?”
“We had the rally before the protest and wondered why they selected the hearing president. I went back to the dorm and ate my Chinese food. I didn’t expect anything like this. The students went to Mayflower Hotel and protested it. I saw it on the news and was amazed. I thought that they would just let it go and accept the fact it happened. The very next morning, I woke up preparing for my biology test. I got ready and walked out of the dorm, and saw an empty parking lot! I thought to myself, what’s going on? I went into the building (HMB), and they told me to go to the front gate of the campus! I thought to myself, not again, what am I going to do?”
“I took my school books back to the dorm and then walked to the front gate. As soon as I saw those angry faces, I was shocked! I grew up in a mainstream school. I have always accepted the fact hearing people have control of everything, and there is nothing I could do. I knew I was wrong when I saw that moment! That minute, I felt mixed feelings. I thought, “Why can’t they just accept the fact they selected a hearing president, and there is nothing we can do?” But at the same time, I realized it is TIME! It helped my self-esteem a lot and helped me understand myself and my deafness! I was there the whole week and felt great. I had never experienced feeling great about myself. I know now that I am deaf, and I can do anything but hear!”
“I have gained more confidence in myself than ever before in my life!”
It is hard to believe ten years have passed. DPN has truly made an enormous impact on the deaf community. Now, deaf people worldwide can look optimistically towards the future because there are indeed brighter days yet to come. DPN was just one of the first barriers to be broken…in the ten years since, more have been broken, and there are more to break!
I am glad that I was here during DPN because it has helped me grow as a person. I saw firsthand the overturning of the 124 years of hearing people’s rule on Gallaudet, and it has helped me understand that anything is indeed possible if we truly put our minds to it.
In 1988, he was a student at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School and was one of the featured speakers during the March 1, 1988 rally that led to the DPN protest ten years ago.
“I’m very strongly [connected] with deaf culture, but I began to realize how DPN really impacted us in “real life.” I’m very glad that DPN proved the “White World” wrong big time! Deaf people were patient for a long time, and that was enough! They can do the same as the hearing world.”
“I feel a very deep pride. I feel like when I walk, I can feel that the world now knows about deaf people. I [still] feel that they pick on us when we speak up for our rights. We are very [much a] minority, but we got them to pay attention to us. It’s really amazing how many people I’ve talked to are leaders. Many deaf people are successful. DPN [encouraged] me to speak up for myself with hearing people.”
Joseph L. Halcott
“My name is Joseph L. Halcott. I am Deaf/hard of hearing. I graduated from Gallaudet in May 1983.
During DPN ten years ago, I was working in the public schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Deaf children, and every day I would cut out the newspapers and bring them in to share with my students and coworkers.”
“I watched the news at night and copied it on the VCR. I made a laminated scrapbook from the newspaper articles that I use now to teach Deaf Culture classes. It starts with the first day of the protest and ends with the last day and says, “The Beginning!”
I wore my Gallaudet Class ring every day. I was, and still am, so proud of Gallaudet. We did what no other hearing college had done – we shut down the college and won!!! We showed the hearing world that – WE CAN!
Hello. I’m Japanese, and I was born deaf, but my parents tried to make me be able to speak, so I attended a “speaking language” education for six years (0-6 years old). Also, I attended a hearing school during all my years. Now I’m in the 10th grenade in Senior High School. It’s too difficult to attend a class every day, but I never give up.”
“Hi, there! Well, I haven’t experienced DPN yet. I will be attending on Thursday, March 5. I am currently enrolled in an American Sign Language (ASL) II class at my college. Our teacher is a graduate of Gallaudet and is very excited to be showing a few of us the campus. “
“I, myself, am very excited, a little nervous, but anxious too! It should be some experience. I’ll have to respond again upon my return. I look forward to seeing your campus and being a part of the DPN.”
“Despite my awkward, ironic role as a congressional staffer working on the “opposite sideline” that symbolized authority (assisting the US Capitol Police with crowd control and assigning interpreters on the Capitol grounds), observing the emergence of the DPN protestors holding each others’ hands and carrying banners above the horizon of Constitution Avenue from the Capitol steps was the most exhilarating, victorious, emotional moment in my whole life as a Deaf person! Never before was I exhaustively proud of my own people, culture, and language with tears on my face!”
“My participation in today’s march (March 11, 1998) was equally emotional. This time, I was on my “home team’s” sideline where I truly belong! I am already looking forward to this reenactment, maybe in 2013 when we celebrate our 25th anniversary! So, my comrades, let’s aim for it, but we must unite forever!”
Andrew D. Pulrang
“In March 1988, I was a junior history major at Dartmouth College. I have a lifelong physical disability, yet I had never felt the need or desire to think about or become involved in disability issues or with other people with disabilities.”
“The DPN movement was immediately noticeable, partly because these were fellow college students. I remember being impressed with how effective and disciplined they were. I’m afraid this was in contrast to the other student movements I had seen in the previous few years, relatively ineffective and often confused efforts to advocate divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It amazed me that the Gallaudet students were able to achieve their goals in a matter of days.”
“The other thing that affected me was seeing people with disabilities being proactive as a community. They weren’t asking for pity or using it as an argument. They weren’t asking for things to be easier or for material assistance. They were demanding respect. I had never seen this before, and in the long run, watching the DPN movement was the first step in changing how I viewed my own disability.”
“Now I am the director of a Center for Independent Living in Northeastern New York. DPN had a greater effect on me than I ever thought it would at the time.”
“I was very angry when the Board of Trustees elected the hearing president Dr. Zinser. My friends urged me to join them. I decided to do so on March 6, 1988.”
“Some of the students pulled fire alarms in all the dorms at about 2 a.m. All students left the dormitories and called for a meeting about a plan to cancel classes. They pushed the bus in front of the gates and blocked cars from entering. We decided to shut down all classes. I was very tired because I did not eat all day and was very stressed. I kept faith despite being weak. “
“The Board of Trustees called for a meeting at the Field House, and all students and supporters were very angry with Jane Bassett Spilman. She did not listen to what we had to say. Somebody pulled the fire alarm, and I knew it was time to march from Gallaudet to the Capitol. We kept chanting, “Deaf President Now!” We still fought even though we were exhausted. NTID and other deaf organizations joined us.”
“I was glad that there were no riots, and it was peaceful with no violence. We fought until Zinser and Spilman resigned. My friends and I had made plans for Spring Break, but we waited for that one word: DEAF president elected! Gallaudet finally elected a deaf president, King Jordan. DEAF WON!”
“I came home after working part-time at Equifax, Inc, plopped down on my couch, and started flipping through the channels on the TV. I came across “Deaf Mosaic” and saw there was a protest going on at Gallaudet.”
“It showed a group of deaf students yelling in sign language, “Deaf President Now!” I was thinking, “Well, it’s about time that the Deaf are taking charge of the deaf community rather than allowing the hearing to take over!” I thought I saw someone I knew on the TV. Turns out I did! Stephen Hlibok’s brother, Greg! And Tim Rarus, and a few of my old sweethearts!”
“It brought back a lot of old feelings and memories. I grew up in mainstream schools, and Gallaudet was the first deaf school and deaf world I have ever experienced! For the first time in my life, I experienced something that you only dream about: a deaf person in a totally deaf world, no communication barriers, no interpreters in the classroom, TTYs everywhere!”
I was formerly a student at Gallaudet. I was at the Northwest Campus. I had transportation to the main campus via shuttle bus and went there every day. It was so wonderful!”
Frank W. Turk, Jr.
“I’m not sure which day it was, but I spent a day by the Gallaudet front entrance and interpreted as needed. I recall interpreting for a deaf woman for a radio show; there wasn’t a woman interpreter available at the time.”
“Later in the day, there was a crew from the DC government that suddenly appeared at the Florida Avenue main entrance. Students were monitoring the flow of traffic onto campus, and in what seemed to be an effort on the part of the DC work crew to support the cause, they pulled out jackhammers and started in earnest to do “an important task” and tore up the street in front of Gallaudet’s main gate.”
“This action further limited traffic on campus. Whether it was intentional or not, I’m not sure, but it appeared to be an action that supported the cause.”
Frank Turk, Sr.
“DPN: THE WEEK THE WORLD RALLIED TO A CAUSE”
“The “Deaf President Now” movement experience taught us the need and value of being assertive in working with the significantly greater population outside of Deaf America. My honest estimation is that the DPN was not won by Deaf America alone.”
“More accurately, the war was won through INVITATIONAL LEADERSHIP, which emphasizes integration, collaboration, partnership, and reciprocity with the non-deaf population of the United States of America and beyond.
In the final analysis, all people, deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing alike, were winners in this historic “Disability Rights of 1988″ movement. Deaf America did not and could not have won the war alone.”
“INVITATIONAL LEADERSHIP is a “family model” which involves any and all individuals regardless of affiliation, characterized by warmth, cooperative spirit, and positive expectations in the spirit of togetherness specific to a common cause. Everyone is invited to see self as able, valuable, and responsible. As a group, they are empowered to act in accordance with these self-perceptions and to contribute maximum power and talents toward the ultimate goal of the group.”
“The three R’s of education are ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and reading. Parallel to this, the three R’s of INVITATIONAL LEADERSHIP are Respect, Responsibility, and Resourcefulness. We respect the fact that everyone is an identity with something special to offer and utilize their special talents to the fullest extent toward our cause.”
“We all are directly responsible for the success or failure of their performance. We apply our resourcefulness to ensure success of our collective efforts. The central core of INVITATIONAL LEADERSHIP is teamwork, as in the acronym, TEAM, which spells “Together Everyone Achieves More.”
“This, in my personal opinion, was how the DPN War of 1988 was won. I shall always remember it as “DPN: The Week The World Rallied To A Cause.”
Fred S. Weiner
“I’d like to share with you what DPN meant to me. I’ll start by saying that DPN was not about you or about me. It was not about any one individual, not about King, really. It was not even about deaf people. DPN was, and still is, about all of us who have hopes, dreams, and desires. DPN is about what can be accomplished when you set aside your personal differences and personal agendas and work together for the greater good. DPN is about the unconquerable nature of the human spirit. And, DPN is about the belief that yes, dreams can, and dreams do come true.”
“I was chatting with fellow deaf friends while in school when our teacher had received word from a staff member that something was occurring at Gallaudet. I felt terrible that I wasn’t in Gallaudet at the time because I stayed in school an extra year to help my ex-sweetheart pass her regent’s exam that year. However, I was proud to be a part of the University the year after all of that took place.”
“Now I’m back as a student in my second year, and — wow! I see how DPN has reshaped Gallaudet as a landmark and reshaped the Deaf community’s attitude and hearing community’s attitude as well. Thank God for DPN! DPN did and continues to make an emotional difference for me and many others here at Gallaudet and around the world (I’m sure).”
“As a freshman at Gallaudet, I was new to the “outside, real world.” At first, I was unaccustomed to deaf people, for I am considered “oral,” but I picked up ASL really quick, made lots of friends. I even was the football team equipment manager; I learned so many things during that year. I am forever grateful that I got the chance to be there when the DPN protest emerged.”
“I was a part of the protest, but not in a very big way. I sat at the front with other students and attended meetings. To be honest, I did not realize the impact until Greg Hlibok was on national TV and my parents back home were amazed and proud of us. The effect it has on me now is that one should never, ever be ashamed to be deaf.”
“I’m a proud Deaf American, even though I did not graduate from Gallaudet or any college. I will regret that part forever because I would love to have a college degree on my wall that says “Gallaudet” to show that I was there during DPN. The people I worked with could not place where they had heard the name “Gallaudet” until I told them about the protest. They said: “Oh, yes! Were you there??” They were proud to know up close and personal a student who was involved with DPN.”
“I will always cherish the memories I experienced during DPN. I did not think we would succeed because we were the silent voices that only deaf people can “hear.” But, during the protest, the whole world heard us loud and clear.”
“Thank you, Gally/DPN, for teaching me that valuable lesson.”
“I was an REA at MSSD’s RHA boy’s dorm during DPN. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, was pregnant at the time when the chaos began at Gallaudet. The students at MSSD were under no supervision since the teachers and staff of MSSD were involved in DPN. The dorm staff at MSSD were asked to work 16 hours a day to supervise the high school kids.”
“It was very hectic, but great memories have surpassed any problems during that time. I was running back and forth to MSSD and home to check on my girlfriend and to see if your baby had come. Most of the time, I stayed on campus at Gallaudet and stayed close to the TDD in case I got a call from the hospital. Our son was born three days after Dr. I. King Jordan was selected as our first deaf president. I wish I could have participated more in the events of DPN, but at least I was there to witness the greatest event in the history of the Deaf.”
“It not only affected me, but it also affected my family, who are hearing. They have become more aware of deafness and deaf culture. I was raised in the hearing culture and did not sign until after I graduated from high school. So my experiences at Gallaudet and during DPN have really helped me grow into a better person. When problems arise between hearing and deaf people now, we know how to handle the situation in the proper way. DPN has really taught us how to handle crises.”
Bridgetta Bourne-Firl Student Activist Jerry Covell Student Activist Greg Hlibok Student Activist Tim Rarus Student Activist Phil Bravin Board Member Elisabeth Zinser Hearing Presidential Candidate Jane Spilman Board chairperson President's Council on Deafness Special Advisory Group Jerry C. Lee Former President Dr. I. King Jordan...
Resource Type: History
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