Gallaudet University Commencement Speaker: Gary Malkowski – 2011

Thank you
President Hurwitz, Board of Trustees,
friends, visitors, families, the embassy representatives
here with us today and all of my
fellow Canadians and all of them who are
watching from afar in Canada, and watching this online. I thank you so much for
the warm reception and the incredible honor it is
to be receiving this Gallaudet university
honorary doctorate degree. In recognition of a body
of work, work that could not have been done, could
not have been achieved without the communities
whose rights we have fought together to
defend. I feel very proud to have
the dedicated energy in the direction that I have
over the last number of years, and owe thanks and
support to my family, the Canadian Hearing Society,
the Gallaudet community and the Deaf and hard of
hearing communities in Toronto and in
Ontario, in Canada and internationally. Let me take a
moment to congratulate and salute the graduating
class of 2011. It is a great honor to be
here with you today, the graduates, families,
friends, Gallaudet community, and all of
the visitors that are here sharing this day with you. It’s an absolute privilege
and a great honor to be here and to see
all of the barriers that we are being able
to move forward and break down, communication and
language barriers. We have had the privilege
of making great strides in all of this faced by Deaf
and hard of hearing children and their families. And I’d like to thank
Dr. Karen Strauss also the recipient of a honorary
doctorate degree today and her wonderful TDI team
for championing civil rights for telecommunications
equality, for deaf and hard of
hearing citizens, and families globally, congratulations. Gallaudet University
was founded in 1864. That was three years
before Canada’s confederation. Gallaudet brought Laurent
Clerc from France and Gallaudet and Laurent
Clerc worked together to start to establish a
number of different schools for the deaf, not
only in the United States, but in Canada. Which eventually led to
the establishment of Gallaudet College. On April 8, 1864,
a congressional bill that allowed the Columbia
Institution to grant degrees was signed by
President Abraham Lincoln who of course we’re all
aware championed freedom and rights to equality. The National Deaf-Mute
College was established in 1864, and Gallaudet’s
dream of establishing a college for Deaf adults
became a reality. Gallaudet was a leading
advocate in North America, and throughout the world,
for educating deaf people. The 1880 International Congress
on Education of the Deaf, in Milan, Italy,
passed resolutions banning the use of
signed languages in the classroom in schools
for Deaf students, and disallowing Deaf educators
and even hearing educators with signed
language skills to continue to
teach globally. However, amazingly and
bravely, Gallaudet continued to allow
sign languages to be used in its classrooms, and continued
to employ Deaf professors and hearing professors with sign
language skills. Canadian David Peikoff
attended and completed his degree at Gallaudet
university in 1928, returning to Canada to
become a revered deaf leader and Canadian
activist, a strong advocate of education and employment
for the Deaf community. He was one of the
founding members of the National Society for the Deaf and
Hard of Hearing renamed and now known as the
Canadian Hearing Society. He was one of the
founding members of the Canadian
Association of the Deaf as well, He once wrote that the
“objective of education for the deaf is not to develop
speech alone, but to produce a
well-adjusted deaf adult, capable of enjoying life
and functioning as taxpayer, not tax consumer. He defended the rights of
children to accessible language and helped change laws to allow
Deaf drivers to drive. After 30 years of
advocating for the rights of Deaf Canadians to gain
access to sign language and to higher education
and employment, many Canadians were able
to attend Gallaudet University because of that, and many of
whom returned and were able
to receive gainful employment. He and his wife, Polly,
returned to Gallaudet University where he successfully
was able to work with the Gallaudet
Alumni Association in raising $1 million
in Canadian funds, all of which was donated
to Gallaudet University. He was a champion for
volunteerism through the Gallaudet University
Alumni Association for more than 20 years. Dr. Andrew Foster
is an important figure within the African-American
history and Deaf history. Not only did he establish
many schools for Deaf students in Africa, he was
also the first African-American to graduate
from Gallaudet college, and that was in 1954. He encouraged and inspired
many Deaf and hard of hearing graduates of African
Schools for Deaf students to come here and subsequently
graduate from Gallaudet. Now many Deaf and hard of
hearing African-American Gallaudet graduates
are employed at the university, at the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, and in many schools for the Deaf across North America and
Africa. One such graduate, Wilma
Newhoudt-Druchen was elected to the South
African Parliament. After the World Federation
of the Deaf Congress, Deaf Way I and Deaf Way II
conferences and Gallaudet’s Leadership Training Institute, an increasing number of
Gallaudet alumni have entered the political arena both running for
government seats and in senior management
appointments in the government. Gallaudet University has
invested in its students to become public
office holders. In fact, more than ten
Gallaudet alumni have been elected politicians
or have enjoyed senior management positions at
all level of government – municipal, state,
and federal. When it was my time to
receive an education, Gallaudet University
provided me with the political and democratic
skills training that I brought back to Canada. and I’m so very proud to
become the first elected Deaf parliamentarian
in North America. That was an office I
held for five years. After which I joined the
Canadian Hearing Society and have been involved in
the senior management team for more than 15 years, but still
working with government and government relations. Today, we have many Deaf and
hard of hearing professionals – whether they be
doctors, lawyers, they participate
in leadership. Examples of which Dr. Alan
Hurwitz, Gallaudet University, Gerry Buckley, National Technical
Institute for the Deaf, Benjamin Soukup, Communication Services
for the Deaf, and Chris Kenopic, The Canadian
Hearing Society, all of whom are presidents
and CEOs. And there are many,
many more to come. Gallaudet University
is truly a home, and is an engine for higher
education that continues to be an integral tool
in the building of thousands of bridges between Deaf
and hard of hearing people who use sign languages
and our general societies including institutions at
all levels of government. In July, 2010, Gallaudet
University delegates along with
hundreds of delegates from around the world, including
Dr. Alan Hurwitz, President, Gallaudet University,
and I attended the International Congress
of the Deaf in Vancouver, B.C., where we witnessed
ICED declarations that: Rejected all resolutions passed
at the ICED Milan Congress in 1880 that
denied the inclusion of signed languages in
educational programs for Deaf students; they acknowledged and sincerely regretted
the detrimental effects of the Milan Conference
resolutions and they called upon all nations
of the world to remember history
and to ensure that educational
programs accept and respect all languages
and all forms of communication. Our reaction was a tearful and cheerful
feeling of liberation. To date, over 147 different
countries have signed, and 99 countries have ratified
the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with
disabilities. This is the largest ever,
first-time signing and ratifying of
a convention. the convention confirms
the rights: to receive education and access
to information in sign languages; To have professional
sign language, spoken language interpreting; to accept and facilitate
the use of sign languages, and to promote and
facilitate the use of sign languages; to promote the cultural
and linguistic identity of the Deaf community; in addition to signed languages are defined as languages
equal to spoken languages. These are now powerful — this
is now a powerful ammunition in our fight for Deaf
education rights, including the protection
of schools for Deaf students. The removal of barriers
to higher education. The elimination of sign
language cleansing and our fight against audism
and all forms of discrimination and our fight for
full and effective participation in democracy globally. The right to access language
and language acquisition is a necessary
prerequisite for exercising the right to human
dignity, freedom of expression, and all
other human rights. Deaf and hard of hearing
children have the right to barrier-free access to
language acquisition during the early years
when language is readily acquired. Sign languages in schools for
the deaf are not only options but they’re the
human right of deaf children and students, and it is on par
with spoken languages and sign languages need to be
accessible to our deaf
children. When I watched President
Obama’s inauguration on TV, I saw millions and
millions of people cheering when he said: We are shaped by every language and culture. This not only aligns with
Gallaudet University’s mission but it sends a very
clear message globally. The surcharge on foreign
students at Howard University was
imposed in 1989. That’s when Congress
approved a recommendation by the Department
of Education. The Howard University
president Announced to the special convocation
for South African President Nelson Mandela
that Congress has rescinded the tuition
surcharge that had been imposed
on international students at the university. The rescission of the
surcharge took effect with the tuition
charges in 1995. The late Dr. Andrew
Foster, the late Dr. David Peikoff, along with Wilma
Newhoudt-Druchen and I are all in the same company that
supports the removal of surcharges for Deaf and hard of
hearing international students who want to come and study
at Gallaudet University. These international
students are our true hope. They will become our
ambassadors of change, the ambassadors of democratic
freedoms and the rights for higher education, and they
will become our future leaders. We would like to ask the
Board of Trustees and the president of Gallaudet
University to work with the Department of U.S. Education and the Congress
of the United States to remove the surcharge for
Deaf and hard of hearing international students
attending Gallaudet University and the National Technical
Institute for the Deaf. This should make it possible
for Gallaudet University to recruit a larger
number of international students and graduate more
international agents of change. As President Clinton
mentioned right here in his 1994 Gallaudet
University Commencement keynote, What he said was that: Gallaudet
is a “national treasure.” And as an international
research university, Gallaudet should not have
extra barriers that serve to exclude
international students. The change in policy is
enthusiastically supported by students and faculty
at the University and by university alumni
around the world. To me, Gallaudet
University is clearly an INTERNATIONAL treasure. We know that Deaf and
hearing people are working together on
the Gallaudet campus and globally and the goal is to
build bridges, to gain respect for one another. And to form a strong,
unified front for the education of all levels
of government, for local, regional, provincial,
state, national and global societies at large. Gallaudet University plays
an integral role in the higher education of Deaf
and hard of hearing students and in achieving
the goals of: equitable
enjoyment of global life, effective civic participation,
the democratic and educational rights of culturally Deaf,
deaf oral, deafened and hard of hearing people,
a society free of discrimination, audism,
and sign language cleansing. full access to language
acquisition and multilingualism, viable
educational placement for our children. Today, I ask you –
families, friends and esteemed guests of the
2011 graduates – along with elected
representatives of U.S. Congress,
U.S. Education Department, donors, sponsors, elected Parliamentarians,
ambassadors and representatives of the
embassies to join me in thanking the Gallaudet
community for its invaluable contribution,
and to join me in knowing that your continued funding of
one of the most accessible, higher post-secondary
education institution makes possible
the education of our future leaders and
this will reshape and improve our societies globally. In closing, let me tell
you what I believe Gallaudet stands for: G Global Access to
higher post-secondary education, A Audism- and attitudinal
barrier-free society, L Learning and liberation,
L Leadership in building bridges and respect, A Agent of change, U Universal design, D Democracy and true freedom E Excellence – a true centre
of excellence T Transformation – into full global citizenship, participation and enjoyment. Congratulations
again to the class of 2011 and to Gallaudet University. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] Laurent Clerc, President Abraham Lincoln,
Edward Miner Gallaudet, Andrew Foster and David Peikoff
are looking down upon us today with extreme pride
in what you have accomplished. You’ve done it. Congratulations! We are — I’m so very
proud of all of you. Internationally, globally,
thank you, and thanks to everybody who is
watching in Canada. Thank you, thank you,
thank you to everyone. Congratulations.

4 thoughts on “Gallaudet University Commencement Speaker: Gary Malkowski – 2011

  1. Powerful speaker, reminds me of Frank Turk.

    20 full minutes of powerful messages without a note at all!

    20 full minutes of powerful speech without a sip of water (can hearing people do that? LOL).

    We are grateful to have Gary representing Deaf Canadians. Thank you!

    You deserve the honour!

  2. I am hearing but have a heart-felt desire to learn ASL I believe the Lord has given me. It is so good that you have such a fine representive for the Deaf and Gallaudet University. You all are right…great speech! I pray all of humanity comes to desire to learn sign language so we all can come together as one people if only to have the ability to communicate and learn from one another! Gods speed my friends and God bless you all! Peace.

  3. Wonderful speech by Gary Malkowski, a leading lawyer and politician Deaf strong supporter of the Rights of the Deaf.

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