National Association of the Deaf

25th Anniversary of Deaf President Now

On March 6th, 1988, Gallaudet University students made history when they refused to accept the decision the Gallaudet Board of Trustees made. This decision reflected a general sense that deaf people were not ready to lead. The students’ acts of defiance became an icon for deaf rights today.  They banded together and stood up for what they believed in – Deaf President Now.

March 6, 2013 marks the 25th Anniversary since the Deaf President Now (DPN) protest at Gallaudet University.  This incredible anniversary is an opportunity to thank to all those who made DPN happen.  To the young kid who stood with her or his parents as they marched to the Capitol; to the student who held signs all week long; to the faculty and staff who believed  -- the protest had a positive impact for the deaf and hard of hearing people, not only in America but also world-wide.  Thank you for being pioneers for the rights of all deaf and hard of hearing people.

In the beginning of the movement, some people in the deaf and hard of hearing community were unsure if Gallaudet University was ready for a deaf president.  Through various demonstrations all week, media coverage, and rallies – tremendous support surprised many.

History was being made.

“The impact of DPN did not stay within the gates of Gallaudet,” said NAD President Chris Wagner.  “DPN inspired the community then and now, as we celebrate its 25th anniversary, and it serves as a strong reminder that deaf and hard of hearing people never have to accept limitations put on them by others.”

“DPN was a pivotal moment in the history of this country for civil rights for deaf and hard of hearing people and many others, and it was instrumental in enhancing the momentum to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD Chief Executive Officer.

Thanks to DPN, it brought legislative and social change in America.  An excerpt from the DPN website at Gallaudet University shares that Senator Tom Harkin, a long supporter of Gallaudet University and whose brother is deaf, said that Congress passed more bills in the five years between DPN and 1993, that promoted the rights of and provided access for deaf people, than in the 216 years of the nation's existence.

Fred Weiner, a NAD employee during DPN, describes how the NAD became the ignition for DPN, “The NAD never hesitated in pushing the agenda to get Gallaudet to select its first Deaf President. The moment Dr. Jerry Lee announced his resignation; the NAD Broadcaster immediately came out with an edition declaring that it was time. Therefore, on behalf of the Deaf community, the NAD signaled that this selection was bigger than just Gallaudet. Indeed, it showed that the office of the Gallaudet Presidency had repercussions for all Deaf Americans and that the symbolism of a Deaf person in that office would do more than anything else to improve the lives of Deaf people. Once this issue was cast in stone, there was no turning back.” -- excerpt from the NAD’s press release on March 6, 2006.

During the movement many people sent letters, telegrams, and called in their support.  After seven days, success was granted to not only the students of Gallaudet University but granted to everyone in the deaf and hard of hearing community.  "It was a victory for all people who ever felt the pain of being stereotyped, devalued, and unrepresented," exclaimed the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.

March 6th is a day to celebrate the many positive changes that has happened thanks to DPN.  However, there is still work to be done.  Join the NAD as we continue to be the nation's premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America – become a member today!

The National Association of the Deaf was established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. As a nonprofit federation, the mission of the NAD is to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering the breadth of a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more.

Gallaudet University has a resourceful link for anyone to learn more about DPN.


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