Quotes following the 1988 DPN protest

The following quotes were made during, or shortly after, the DPN protest of March 1988. The source for these and other quotes used throughout this website are from either the book by Jack Gannon, The Week the World Heard Gallaudet or Gallaudet in the News special protest issue.

“A fundamental requirement, overriding any other for this job, is an understanding of deafness-what it is and how it affects the educational experience.”
Senator Paul Simon (D-Ill.)

“The students at Gallaudet University deserve our congratulations. They educated the nation about deafness and won a long-overdue victory for all disabled people.”
Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis

“Now we have respect; we have everything. It’s just the beginning for all of us.”
Greg Hlibok, President, Student Body Government at Gallaudet University

“I think it’s time for a new perspective, one that only a deaf person can offer.”
Dr. Harvey J. Corson, (Class of 1964)
Superintendent, Louisiana School for the Deaf

“It’s really a case of the hearing impaired catching the country’s ear for the first time.”
Editorial, Arkansas Democrat

“For the trustees to turn away from the entirely reasonable request of the students that a hearing-impaired individual be made president of the college is a very unfortunate expression of insensitivity.”
Congressman Barney Frank, (D-Mass)
Congressional Record

“If Gallaudet can’t demonstrate leadership, nobody will. It must be Gallaudet.”
Jack R. Gannon, (Class of 1959)
Executive Secretary, Gallaudet University
Alumni Association

“You [the Gallaudet students] have brought the deaf community together. You are my heroes.”
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

“The problem is not that the students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen.”
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

“The problem there was the attitudes of hearing people.”
Ruth Ann Leach, Columnist
Nashville Banner

“God made the world in seven days, and we have changed it in seven days.”
Charles A. Giansanti, Chemistry Professor
Gallaudet University

“The deaf people here are stunned and outraged. Hearing people have all kinds of ways to move up in the world. There’s only one place for deaf people to move up, and that’s Gallaudet.”
Dr. Lawrence Newman, (Class of 1948)
President, National Association of the Deaf

“We need a president in this time and age who is sensitive, understands, exemplifies, and advocates for the deaf, not just by rhetoric but by being a living example.”
Gary Olsen, (Class of 1965)
Executive Director
National Association of the Deaf

“The students of Gallaudet have sent a powerful message across this country!”
Senator Paul Simon (D-Ill.)

“It is long past time that Gallaudet had a deaf president, as testimony that deaf people are capable of leading themselves.”
Truman Stelle, Graduate Class of 1968
Gallaudet Faculty Member

“The world has watched the deaf community come of age. Together we’ve overcome our own reluctance to stand up for our own rights.”
Dr. I. King Jordan, President
Gallaudet University

“All persons with disabilities understand the attitudinal barriers you are facing and support the continuing fight to change society’s view of persons with disabilities.”
Eddie Turner
Handicaps Unlimited

“It was a victory for all people whoever felt the pain of being stereotyped, devalued, and unrepresented.”
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson

“This is the Selma of the Deaf “
Kathy Karcher,
Gallaudet Graduate Student

Quotes from letters sent to Gallaudet during the 1988 DPN protest.

Gallaudet University was flooded with hundreds and hundreds of letters during the DPN protest. Many are now being preserved in the Gallaudet University Archives. Most of the letters were overwhelmingly supportive.

Here are some quotes from just a few of them:

The Buff and Blue
“Our pride and self-respect rests on this issue, and this includes the pride and self-respect of all Deaf individuals worldwide.”

The National Association for the Deaf
“Throughout its history, Gallaudet University has been to us, like in the darkest spot, a candle aglow. Gallaudet has been a TORCH OF HOPE to the deaf people of America, guiding its students toward increased freedom, independence, and expanded opportunities. Times are changing, and so are we. In this day and age, may deaf Americans have a President who is sensitive, who understands, who exemplifies and advocates for deaf people, not just by rhetoric but by being a living example. A President in our own image.”

Parents of a deaf son at Gallaudet
“The era of hearing people deciding what is “best” for deaf people has come to an end.”

Mother of a deaf child
“I think if the President is hearing impaired, it would be easier because they have first-hand knowledge. They faced most of the circumstances themselves. This way, they can level with the students, plus the students can think of them as an equal, not someone trying to earn Brownie Points. My son is only five years old and completely deaf in his left ear, and only has 10 percent in his other. That is even fading slowly. His future is my deepest concern. I’m hoping someday, when he is ready for college, Gallaudet will be his alma mater. So if I just sit back and don’t have my say, I’m hurting him.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
“Gallaudet University is a premier school designed to help deaf people become leaders. It is an incredible irony and an insult that, in its 124-year history, the school has never had a deaf president.”

Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 25
“We feel that the Board seems unable to hear the pleas of the students or see what it is they’re doing to the dreams of those students. The ambition and pride of the faculty and students in the institution should be nourished rather than stepped on.”

Mother of a deaf student at another university
“I am not one of the students who are speaking out loud and clear on their own behalf, but I cheer them on with all my heart. The stakes are very high indeed. At issue are self-determination and dignity – the very same issues that stirred our entire nation to rebellion!”

Student at Howard University
“By now, you must see that deaf people can be as capable as the hearing; therefore, I believe some good has come of all this. I commend the students for fighting for their rights and opening some rather closed minds at Gallaudet. Hopefully, now with the newest President and newly appointed Chairman of the Board, Gallaudet can again be the institution of national importance and influence that it was meant to be.”

Woman with six deaf brothers and sisters-in-law
“Gallaudet is the leader in educating deaf people. You are setting a bad example for the business and professional world. Please listen to your students. You only display your insensitivity, ignorance, and rigidity by clinging to the appointment of Elizabeth Zinser.”

Eight-year-old hearing girl in the second grade
“I wish that you would get a president that could communicate with the students.”

Woman from Maine
“The hearing-impaired deserve this very important opportunity, and I was embarrassed for you as a board in hearing about this faux pas of yours on the McNeil Lehrer News Hour tonight.”

President of the Buffalo Civic Association of the Deaf
“Several schools for the deaf in the United States, which have deaf Administrators are some of the most successful schools of their kind. So why did Gallaudet, a University so unique, shame themselves in the faces of those who truly looked up to them as an outstanding peer by the deaf community itself and by the government that keeps the university functioning with funds and grants.”

Reverend from Ohio
“Your President came over as insincere, uncaring, robot-like, and only interested in administration and not the needs of your special care. The students need a hearing-impaired President. Please hear their needs, not your needs or women’s libber.”

Student of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture
“I believe the students need and must have a person who not only understands their needs and language but also their culture. In my opinion, that means someone who is Deaf.

A very upset Gallaudet parent
“I am outraged. I believe Gallaudet needs a qualified Deaf President.”

Elementary student at a school with a Deaf principal
“I am disappointed in you because you don’t have a deaf president. Don’t give up. You will find a deaf president.”

Reverend of the Episcopal Missions for Deaf People of Connecticut
“I am not one who believes Gallaudet had to select a deaf person as President; but I can certainly understand the student’s wrath at such insulting behavior from a Board member. As a parent of deaf children who are capable of functioning in the world, I find this reprehensible.”

President-elect of the American Society for Deaf Children
“You have said that the President you appointed is a “caring” person. Deaf people do not wish to be “cared” for; they need a Deaf President who respects and empowers Deaf people.

Deaf President Now: Profiles and viewpoints

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...

National Deaf Life Museum

Resource Type: History

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