A People to Call Home

As I left work the other day, a traffic jam forced me into an unexpected detour. It took me past none other than Germantown Friends School.

Germantown Friends School is the hearing school I attended from 1978 to 1984. It’s a tough academic environment supported by a loving, caring, Quaker community. It’s intellectual nirvana over there.

A significant number of GFS graduates have moved on to big things in their lives. One of my classmates, for example, worked alongside Peter Jennings as a senior producer for ABC World News Tonight. Those of you who are into music might recognize the names of GFS alums Eric Bazilian (from the popular ‘80s band The Hooters) and Garrett Dutton (a.k.a. G. Love from the band G. Love & Special Sauce). There are plenty of others making a big splash in all walks of life, too many to mention here. The GFS motto--Behold, I have set before thee an open door--holds true for its graduates. It’s a great school that opens new worlds.

And yet, as I drove by my familiar old haunt, I glanced at the old buildings and kept going. No big deal. It’s just a very nice place where I happened to get my high school diploma. That was then, this is now. Life goes on.

And then...

Later that evening a new D-PAN video was brought to my attention. It was an ASL interpretation of John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change.

“Hey, Darren! Brandon! Check this out!” I motioned for my kids to join me at the computer. I thought they’d find it pretty cool. They did. I also wanted Darren to see that ASL has a place in music because even though he’s deaf, he’s been bugging me to get him a guitar (he’s already seen video clips of Beethoven’s Nightmare and is all the more determined to follow their footsteps).

Since this was the first time I’d seen the ASL version of Waiting on the World to Change, I had no idea what was coming. I didn’t know it would include a number of video clips from the Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet University back in 1988.

The footage of Gallaudet took me by surprise and a strong wave of emotion swept over me. Goosebumps galore.

Let me take a moment to tell you how hard it is for me to admit this. I’m Mr. Jockstrap. Frat boy. Beer Bong Man. Black belt. Burping contest champion. I know my buddies at the local watering hole are going to be razzing me about this for years, but so what. I’m man enough to admit that the powerful imagery of Gallaudet had me choked up big time.

That’s right. I was caught off guard and visibly moved, so much that I had to take a moment to compose myself. I took a deep breath and exhaled sharply. Darren noticed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said. I paused the video and took it back to one of the Gallaudet scenes.

“See that?” I asked. “That’s where I went to college. It’s where I met your mother. For many years before you were born, that was my home.”

It still is.

In my heart and soul, Gallaudet and the Deaf community will always be home.

Before we wrap this up, let’s go back to GFS for a moment. We need the frame of reference.

GFS is the best school in the country. I really believe that. It was a place where I, as a solitaire mainstreamed student, pulled off what should have been impossible.

Don’t ever call me an “oral failure” because I succeeded beyond all expectations in the mainstream. Nonetheless, something was missing. I don’t think it needs much explaining. My reaction when I drove past GFS and my reaction when I saw the Gallaudet news coverage pretty much says it all.

But when I say that Gallaudet is my home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Washington D.C. is literally my home. I’m still a Philly boy.

What I’m saying is that oftentimes, people will emphasize that we all need “a place to call home.”

Well, I didn’t get all worked up over Florida Avenue (or Capitol Hill, for that matter). I got worked up over the Deaf friends and colleagues who marched from Florida Avenue to the Capitol. I have a people to call home.

This is what I make sure to remind everyone when they marvel over the latest technology. Yes, technology may have its advantages and I do respect those who choose that avenue. But at the same time… technology or no technology, there’s nothing as powerful as having a people to call home.

Related Links

D-PAN (Click here to find the ASL interpretation of Waiting on the World to Change

Beethoven's Nightmare

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