Sunday, September 27, 2009

South Korea Association of the Deaf - Amazing Video!

* The video is captioned*

Thank you, Hee-Kyung Cho "Choy" of South Korea for sharing this with us! Deaf South Koreans are inspirational to all of us worldwide!

This video was supposed to be posted up in June but due to my internship and other things that kept me busy, I was not able to upload it until recently. I hope you all enjoy it. We all must keep the values of being an involved citizen in our countries, no matter if we are deaf or hearing.

As Justin Dart would say, You have the power! Lead on!

- Leah

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Obama's Health Care Address Will Be Live-Captioned Online

Score one for accessibility in New Media world! Tonight's major "make-or-break" speech will be captioned.

Watch the Live Captioned Webcast of the President’s Health Care Address to Congress at

Be sure to watch it and rate it. What do you think?? Debate health care as interested and involved participants that we all are.

I'm extremely pleased to see that steps are being taken to ensure greater accessibility in a modern age when we are becoming increasingly dependent on New Media. As with all changes, there are pros and cons to the hyper-connected world of blogging, twittering, vlogging, live-feeds, RSS, and all that. But if there is going to be change, we better make sure it's at least accessible.

Will you watching the address tonight? I will be!

- Leah

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Follow Leah at Twitter for fast updates!

I'll be twittering at "leahkh" and I will be providing fast updates over there for the announcement of the finalists for Gallaudet's next President. Feel free to add me.

I'd like to also mention that the current President Roberto Davila will be greatly missed and his leadership was monumental for Gallaudet University. He pulled us out of a very dark period and into the bright future with successful MSCHE re-accreditation, raising academic standards, and increasing enrollment. No words of thanks may ever do his dedication to Gallaudet University justice.

Thank you, President Davila. Your presence will be irreplaceable.

- Leah

The Deaf Perspective Returns for Another Year!


Wow, the summer has passed already?? In case you were wondering where I had gone, I was at the Capitol Hill nearly all summer. I had an internship with the House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-MD) office, participating in the AAPD's internship program. It was a truly wonderful experience. I'd like to thank my internship sponsor, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, for helping make this exceptional opportunity possible. I'd also like to thank Andy Imparato at AAPD, Mrs. Yoshiko Dart, and Rayna Aylward at MEAF. I have some surprises coming up for you this fall, some big projects. Keep tuned in to The Deaf Perspective!

You know what I have always stood for - for community activism, participation in the political process, and being a strong stakeholder wherever you are in America and worldwide. Each individual is ultimately an ambassador for the deaf community to the world. We can and should not continue to be delegated to the image of deaf people being dependent, weak, and unable to participate. That is a myth and I strive to shatter that every single day!

I'm returning with a bang - guess where I am right now? At Gallaudet University's GUKCC auditorium, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the finalists for Gallaudet University's next President!

Gallaudet University is such a strong, proud, and determined beacon in the world for deaf education. I wish the University the best and Gallaudet University will always remain my home at heart.

- Leah

Friday, July 3, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: South Korea

Interview with Hee-Kyung Cho "Choy" of South Korea and Board Member of World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section about the push for deaf rights in South Korea.

Military Eligibity, Disability, and Social Programs

Before I begin this post, I apologize sincerely for opening up such a can of worms. I am not sure about what kind of role SSDI plays in the life of people with disabilities outside the deaf community but I will write based on my knowledge of the issue within the deaf community.

What propelled me to think about this issue critically and through the lens of disability rights was my chat with a LC (Legislative Counsel) from outside my office this week. We were talking about my internship experience and how educational it is for me. I said that I had originally entered the office with only two areas of policy interest but now I had broadened to three more areas of policy interest. I mentioned Foreign Affairs as one of the new policy interests and we talked about the difference between Defense and Foreign Affairs. I said that I'm not interested in Defense or military issues because I truthfully don't know very much about the area. Since I'm deaf, I'm not eligible for military service and neither are many in the deaf community so the subject has become rather distant to me. After we finished talking, I walked into the elevator and started thinking about military eligibility and the disability community.

There are some knowledge that you gain from in the classrooms, the books, and the media. And then there are some knowledge that you gain from mere interaction, from social contact, and from cultural sensibilities. It is hard to trace back the original source when your information comes from this second set of knowledge because it's like “you've always known that.”

Growing up, I always knew that the deaf were not allowed to serve in the military and the same is probably true of other disabilities. The only mention of disability in conjunction with military is mostly of disabled veterans. Later on, when I went off to college and many of my friends also did – many people I knew flocked to the SSDI office. The broad-swinging justification for these kind of programs being available to the deaf was because of 2 things: A) Difficulty getting jobs as a deaf person and B) Ineligible for military enlistment.

I can definitely vouch for the A reason. I remember all too well when as a 16-year-old I tried to get a summer job and was continually denied applications at places espousing “HIRING NOW!” signs. Even today, many deaf people get jobs through tips in the community. As a deaf person it's hard to just “walk in and apply for a job.” And the military enlistment is true as well. When you enlist in the military, you get benefits. And we the deaf don't get a chance at that. So the Social Security programs are there to “fill in the gap” of in-equal opportunities.

However, the problem that these kind of programs creates for the deaf community is that it creates a sort of financial pacifier. Rather than suing the workplaces that deny employment and opening up the job market to be more deaf-friendly, deaf people know that there's the SSDI option.

Do we really want to be in this kind of situation? The answer is a flat NO. There are plenty of deaf people I know who have stated that they WANT to serve in the military and WOULD if they were not ineligible. There are no reasons why deaf people can't serve at home bases and contribute their assets in other areas of service else than combat. Regarding employment, I happen to know of a person who was late deafened in his 20s and he lost his job as a waiter along with his hearing. We do go out and look for jobs but more often than not, doors are closed.

Traditionally, deaf people have responded to such job discrimination by creating conclaves where they employ each other. Over 100 years ago, when deaf people were denied insurance – they all got together and established the first deaf insurance company in 1901. We have places of employment where it is more deaf friendly such as education, telecommunications, and certain businesses. Our culture is all about reaching out and helping each other out. But it's time to reach outward rather than inward and push for change.

I've always espoused social programs as important and necessary but at the same time, the job market needs to be opened up enough that social programs are the “safety net” not the “first resort.” The more people are on financial pacifiers, more tax money are being spent by the government rather than more tax money being paid towards the government.

More opportunities need to be created for accessibility in the job market and the military. Here is an interesting reading on deaf people serving in the Israeli military. Remember, the change most often begins at the top – at the government – and that's where we need to “pack” (taking a page out of FDR's book) ourselves in for professional careers.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Commentary on Sign Language and Accessibility

First of all, I would like to proclaim that I have not reneged on my promises of “transcript coming!” on some vlogs. Transcripts are UP and posted for some vlogs that I updated in hurry without translation. You may go back to them and check out the English words. I work hard to transcribe my vlogs but due to my being in school full time, being active in extracurricular, working a job, and volunteering in spare time... the sad truth is that sometimes time doesn’t permit me to do that for every single vlog. Those are the times when I ask for volunteers to help out. There are still videos left that need to be transcribed.

As I repeatedly emphasized, two-way accessibility is extremely important. If we want to get accessibility in the world, we must open ourselves up to the world as well.

We the deaf consider ourselves a linguistic minority with our sign language. More than anything, our life experience, culture, and barriers are all bound inexorably to language rather than our hearing status. A deaf child who does not have access to proper language acquisition ultimately will not have access to better education and life opportunities. True, I’ll say frankly that I was born profoundly D-E-A-F but I’ll also be the first to tell you that if not for sign language and bilingualism – I would be reduced to something that society would want to “fix.” With the light of sign language, the deaf and the disabled have a formidable weapon against the ideas of eugenics, of a “perfect human race” that isn’t necessary and best left behind with Hitler’s demise.

This blog originally began because I wanted to update my family and friends on what I was doing at Democratic National Convention. Even though I’m proud that many members of my extended family know sign language, some of them do not know sign language. Should they be left out of the loop and be reduced to the same level of frustration looking at my moving hands as deaf people looking at hearing people speak with their soundless lips? No. Because I know far too well the frustration of the lack of accessibility on the internet, I refused to let any one fall victim to this impediment on my own little niche in the internet. No one deserves to be left out.

Quid pro quo. The loose translation for the Latin expression is “you give me something, I give you something.” We give the world accessibility to our community, our language, and our unique perspective. In return, everybody understands more why accessibility is so important for everybody.

From the political perspective: Enough is enough. It’s time for the deaf community to stop being insular and think broadly in making an impact in the world through voting, volunteering, and connecting to our elected leaders. It’s time for the rest of the world to realize that the deaf community has powerful and untapped potential for major grassroots impact. To the politicians- Eleven million. Don’t be ignorant. Win our vote.

And I’d like to give a heartfelt BIG Thank-You to volunteers Victoria Calaman for transcribing the International vlogs and to Raychelle Harris’ interpreting class for transcribing the rest of the vlogs.

VLOGS with transcripts

Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Austria

I have a conversation with Florian Gravogl of Austria. It is about the interesting subject of elected officials who are deaf. The Austrian parliament has recently passed a measure requiring a deaf parliament member!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Spain

I have a conversation with World Federation for the Deaf Youth Section board member Roberto Sanchez about deaf organizations in Spain.


Leah: (to audience) Hello. We are here in SOVA Wine and Espresso bar for this fundraising event to support Global Reach Out (GRO) so their delegates can go to other counties and help them out. Now, I introduce Roberto Suarez. I have questions for him.

Leah: (to Roberto) What is your position?

Roberto: I am a board member of World Federation of Deaf Youth Section (WFDYS). You already told my name. My name sign is (‘D’ move up and down by the nose). I am from Spain.

Leah: Spain, oh. Welcome to America. I am happy to have you here.

Roberto: Thank you.

Leah: Spain associations, what do they lobby the government for? What do they do?

Roberto: The most important event was in 2007 when the government recognized Spanish Sign Language as a language. This was a huge step in the history. In the past two years, the law has been polishing. For examples, there must be bilingual in education, captions must be 100% accessible.

Leah: Good.

Roberto: And interpreter services must be provided. The goal is to remove barriers.

Leah. Good. Good. I am happy about that. Spain is a big country. How many Deaf associations are there?

Roberto: We have three structures. The associations that represent Spain have 17 federation members. In each federation association regions, there are smaller associations. There are 130 associations. So, in total of all associations in Spain, there are around 150 associations.

Leah: Wow. That is many. Do deaf people get involved in politics or not?

Roberto: Well, the society has changed a lot. It is very different than in the past. Nowadays, deaf lives are more accessible and have more choices. So being involved in associations isn’t as important. The numbers of member are down because deaf lives have more accessibility. In the old days, when barriers weren’t broken, associations were the only places for information. Now deaf people can get news anywhere so their focus in associations are less.

Leah: Yes. Good. Okay, last question – you are from Spain and you see America voted for Obama. What do you think?

Roberto: My personal opinion, I think this is positive.
Leah: Positive?

Roberto: Yes, positive because this is liberal, democracy, sorry I don’t know the word in English. Just like Spain, it means that the opinions of people are important and valued, opposed to governments’ opinions. Plus, because Obama is black, it means that his heart is big. He can understand and relate with people and help serving them for the better.

Leah: Good. Interesting perspective. Thank you.

Leah: (to audience) It is interesting to see different international deaf perspectives on politics.

Leah: (to Roberto) Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Roberto: Likewise. Thank you.

Leah: (to audience) Thank you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Political Involvement of Deaf Chinese: The People's Republic of China

Hello Everybody!

Please allow myself to welcome YOU again. My name is Toronja Williams and last month, I posted my blog entries explaining about my experiences at the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC) in Washington, DC. Currently, I am making the Deaf Perspective on International Politics a main focus in this blog segment, today.

It becomes critical that I cover about the political involvement of Deaf Chinese of the People's Republic of China as a more specific focus in this Deaf Perspective blog segment on International Politics. As a former scholar in the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) Delegation on Diplomacy & International Relations in China in spring 2007, I visited cities in China such as Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. During my 15 days of duration there, I learned about the International Politics and China's role and impact in global affairs in several workshops and lectures sponsored by the Chinese colleges and universities and government programs. Thus, after attending these programs, they were all beneficial, informative and interesting to me.

One afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. At this workshop, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi questions about the Deaf participations in the political process in the country. He explained to me that, since the Deaf Chinese were unable to gain quality education and to secure qualified jobs, they were, therefore, unable to participate in the political process of convincing the government officials to change and to enact the laws. Most importantly, the Deaf Chinese did not have the right necessary amount of political information they needed in order to be part of the political process in their own country.
Many Deaf Chinese individuals were not aware about the importance of becoming more assertive and more proactive in forming and making political decisions in forums, schools, and governments as well.
In such a situation similar to this, they, most likely, became inactive in political process in other places such as the United Nations. Therefore, the Deaf Chinese were indeed suffering from inequality and inability to gain access to political information. I remember at one point, the internet did not have any political information accessible for internet users. This example showed how the government controlled the amount of political information that citizens could receive.

We need to come together as Deaf, Hearing, Americans and Chinese-Americans to exchange information about showing the Deaf Chinese the importance of becoming more politically involved in the political process in their countries. I look forward to share more of the general perspectives of the Deaf Chinese in China in the next coming days and to provide you with valuable information about the importance of helping the Deaf Chinese to seek and to gain political information in order for them to have a successful political turnout which would come from their political involvements. Finally, I leave enough space for everyone to opine here. Your voices, thoughts and opinions count!
Stay healthy and come back again!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Denmark

A vlog conversation with the Vice President of World Federation for the Deaf Lars Knudsen. I ask him about his country's political system, the governmental friendliness towards deaf people and accessibility, and his opinion on American political system.


Leah: (to audience) Hello, I am here to continue the series of International Deaf Perspective on politics. Now I’m interviewing him.

Leah: (to Lars) What is your name? Where are you from? What is your position in World Federation of Deaf Youth Section (WFDYS)?

Lars: My name is Lars. I am from Denmark. I am the vice president of WFDYS.

Leah: Good. That is nice. Welcome to America.

Lars: Thank you.

Leah: I am curious what is the political system in your country like?

Lars: In Denmark, there are around 15 parties, but there are two main parties. One is Socialism and another is Liberal. There are many smaller parties that give support to the two main parties.

Leah: That is interesting. Does the government support Deaf people? How much of support? What are the goals? What are the main parties’ perspectives on Deaf people?

Lars: Denmark is one of the most high-tax paying countries.

Leah: How much is the tax?

Lars: About 50%.

Leah: Wow!

Lars: Yes. So, with that much of money support, we have accessibilities for free. Because the money does support people including deaf, we have free interpreter services and other accessibilities in general. It is good.

Leah: So, the government pays all those, right?

Lars: Yes.

Leah: Does the government provide all accessibilities?

Lars: Yes.

Leah: Wow, that is good. What are the main parties’ opinions/perspectives on deaf people?

Lars: Yes. Socialism party gives more focus and support than Liberal party does.

Leah: Interesting. That is good. Now, I’m curious, since you are here in America, visiting, what do you think of the difference between American politics and Danish politics? What is your opinion?

Lars: I see American politics have strong media and more people are involved. Danish politics are much smaller, but in last few years, we have followed American political system more.

Leah: Good. Thank you for the different perspective.

Lars: Thank you.

Leah: (to audience) I want to say that it is interesting that Lars mentioned media and people can involve, can – no I mean, people are interested involving in America, but are the deaf people getting involved? I encourage more deaf people getting involved. We need more. Thank you.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

International Deaf Perspective: Venezuela

I have a conversation with the President of World Federation for the Deaf Youth Section. We talk about lobbying for deaf rights, meeting Hugo Chavez, and working in United Nations. Fascinating!

I need help with transcripting this vlog. If you volunteer, please leave a comment or email me at Thank you!

EDIT 1: Video comments over at!!

EDIT 2: Video isn't working for some reason. I have re-posted the same vlog in a new blog entry. View my blog in its entirety to see the vlog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kicking off the Deaf International Politics Series!


It has become the norm for this blog to go through "series" of special focus - I have taken you along on my journey of experiences in the political landscape from Democratic National Convention 2008 through the campaign season of Election 2008 all the way to Inauguration experience. It seems to me that doing series is a successful way for me to share experiences and perspectives with all of you, my readers. I shall not stop doing this.

Now, I'm proud to say that I will unveil new series for this blog beginning NOW about the international "deaf perspective" on politics.

I already expressed a desire to branch out more about the deaf perspective on politics in the international field. Globalism is increasingly part of undeniable reality and everything is intertwined, interconnected nowadays. I am positive that it will be eye-opening, educational, and benefical for us to look at the deaf perspective from international deaf on politics and I will seek out to bring that perspective to you.

Excellent way to begin all of this - I proudly proclaim to all of you that it is the first time that World Federation for the Deaf's Youth Section has come to Gallaudet University for the first time as an official delegation! We welcome them to America and I look forward to sharing with you their perspectives. The delegation consists of WFDYS' board members and has representatives from:

South Korea

Look forward to vlogs in multi-languages (native language, native signed language, American Sign Language, and English) in upcoming week!

- Leah

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Featured on Bob's Vlog!

I am proud to let you know that I, along with the founder of Global Reach Out Alim Chandani, have been featured on Gallaudet University President Roberto Davila's talk-show style Vlog to the Gallaudet community and beyond, "Bob's Vlog"

Here is the letter our President Davila sent out below.

February 3, 2009

Dear Campus Community:

Gallaudet is proud to be located in the nation’s capital. The proximity to arts and cultural events is a great benefit to Gallaudet students. They especially have opportunities to get involved in the political process that are not available for students in other parts of the country.

On this week's "Bob's Vlog" I have a conversation with Leah Katz-Hernandez, a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in government, and Alim Chandani, a doctoral student in the Department of Administration and Supervision.

Leah and Alim are two examples of students who got involved in the political process and participated in events surrounding the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I'm proud of both of them and the many other students who took advantage of the opportunities to be a part of such an historic moment in the nation's history.

I hope you enjoy this week's vlog.


Robert R. Davila

If you wish to watch the Vlog or read the transcript, you may do so at the links below.

I would like to add that I truly enjoyed the experience of doing this Vlog with President Davila. I have always looked up to him, especially considering his impressive background - being raised as a Spanish-speaking child from the barrio and rising through deafness and cultural barriers to become such an admirable role model regarding areas of education, advocacy, and public service. At the end of the vlog, you may see that I have asked him a question about his work under two former presidents' administrations at the Department of Education. I truly took the words to heart from his response. I hope you all will take it to the heart, too.

Bob Davila:

Excellent question. I am really proud and happy to tell you that I received those opportunities by doing exactly what you two are doing now while you are young and still here in school. You are volunteering. You are getting involved. You are developing strong interests in the political process. You are reaching out to other people, offering knowledge and expertise, and your support and assistance. I think that is what is involved in becoming a good community individual, and I did a lot of that.

I was really committed to service and to volunteerism, not only here in the U.S., but in other countries as well, especially in Latin America and in the Far East. That came to the attention of other people who recognized me for my work and my commitment to service and that opened the door to opportunities. I’m really proud of that experience and I think the two of you will do much better than I did because you have so many more opportunities to be involved. Now the community is really diverse and more accepting of people who are different. So I really look forward to hearing wonderful things about the two of you and there is nothing--like you said before, Leah--nothing is impossible anymore. I look forward to reading about the two of you and your famous careers. Thank you very much for coming to join us for “Bob’s Vlog” today.

EDIT: It looks like the Global Reach Out link above isn't working. Go to for more information.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First 100 Days of the 44th President Barack Obama and International Deaf Community

Hello Newly Readers,

First and foremost, I want to thank Leah Katz-Hernandez for allowing me to share my stories about the Inauguration days, here and, showing me the rope in the blogosphere world. What an exciting and an incredible learning experience it was for me! Basically, I am very excited to work with Leah as she is currently taking International Government classes, and will be sharing some of her academic perspectives in these blog/vlog segments.
So many of you are probably wondering why I call you newly readers. It is simply because, during the Inauguration days, I posted my blogs entries, you have read about my experiences of witnessing the historical Inauguration through my participation in the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC) in Washington, DC, a few weeks ago. Today, I welcome you again to a new blog segment forum which I will discuss about the First 100 days of Obama Presidency and the importance of addressing International Disability Laws issues.
Let’s start with Obama’s First 100 Days of Presidency. This is an important time-span for a newly incoming President Obama who will be “graded” based on his presidential performance at strictly confronting the economic crisis and at aggressively pressing for his massive economic recovery plan during his administration. Since the economy will have an undue burden on his incoming administration, his first 100 days are important as he will have the opportunity to prove to us, Americans, that the rest of his term will be successful. “Obama wants to alleviate our struggles and advance our dreams so that we can prosper and grow as proud U.S. citizens living in American states.”
In dealing with our economy crisis, he has outlined several goals:
-Make the financial sectors work well with managing the retirement benefits for senior citizens and college loans for students in America.
-Create millions of jobs for Americans backed with retirement and pension fund packages.
-Bolster banks and corporations back into the financial systems by refinancing the American families, students and employees.

“Transferring from a transition from a chaotic world to a peaceful world is difficult and requires persons’ support and transferring from a transition from an ignorant world to a compassionate world requires people to understand the people with disabilities.’’
Moving forward with Obama during these transitions requires us to have focus, determination and assertiveness qualities in facing these difficult changes. In addressing these changes, I wanted to mention that our international disability laws are being ignored and being abandoned. It is through our international petition collecting and legislation making processes, and with speaking to United Nations Disability Convention Representatives about our rights for making American Sign Language (ASL) another primary language and making interpreting services accessibly and legally; only then, we can move forward in advancing ourselves in this today's fast-paced and ever-changing economic society. This will be discussed later in the next context.
Additionally, I would like to outline some goals that I wish to achieve in this blog. -Fundraising---to earn money to expand existing blog webpage into a multi-dimensional international webpage which would reach out to the international community for support in addressing the legal changes in international disability rights issues.
-Petition collecting—to convince the UN Disability Convention to make ASL as part of the foreign language in the UN missions and goal initiatives.
-Requesting accessibility--- to call for UN Disability Convention to provide interpreting services for employment opportunities, traveling opportunities for tourists, and studying abroad opportunities for students overseas.
-Conduct informative interviews---to reach out to prominent people with successful stories at press conferences and events related to the news and media, politics and international diplomacy and security.
We need the international Deaf community to be active in collecting petitions in order to call for actions in reenacting the international disability laws which protects the rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in having equal partnering access in work, study and travel opportunities worldwide. Receiving reasonable accommodation in the international Deaf community helps to strengthen the economy by pushing the government to reduce poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, and unemployment issues that so often prevail within the with the International Deaf communities. By requesting the UN Disability Convention to provide quality and reasonable services, we are able to live up to our responsibilities to shoulder and shoulder with the government in eliminating these unnecessary tax-dollars spending associated with the establishing of government provisions.
Without your support for this cause, we cannot make international traveling, working and studying more accessible and more enjoyable experiences for many of YOU---so, this is the website for all of us to start with. Please feel free to leave comments or share your thoughts with us.
As always may you continue to be with us for a more joyous first term of 2009 and best wishes!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Deaf Perspective Tidbits

I bring to you relevant blog postings or news stories showing the deaf perspective on politics.

  • The economic situation is hitting our deaf schools hard – Amy Cohen Efron outlines the grim situation in blog entry “Devasting Economy STRIKES Deaf Schools
  • Venerable deaf muckraker reporter/blogger Mishka Zena does some research and gives us the news on possible deaf school closings, budget cuts, and more. In her commentary, she suggests that “This would be a good time for you all to flex your civic muscle and contact all your fellow alumni to urge them to contact the governor how important state schools are for Deaf Children. Numbers speak the loudest : the more people they hear from, the more they will reconsider about the budget cuts.
  • Georgia schools Kathy Cox endured attack ads from Republicans blasting her for going on a game show while her schools were supposedly struggling. Then she won $1 million prize on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” game show and declared that she would give it all to schools for the deaf and blind. Three schools were supposed to be the recipients - Georgia Academy for the Blind, the Georgia School for the Deaf, and Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. However, her husband’s home building business pulled the couple in deep financial trouble and they filed for bankruptcy. Now, the prize-money-turned-charity-award is in jeopardy and might not be awarded to the schools.
  • This is actually pretty interesting. As a copy editor at the Buff and Blue this year, I remember practically every single article that passes through my hands (and eyes). One of the cover stories last fall semester was about how Gallaudet University could welcome new inductees in the deaf world – veterans who have been late-deafened due to military combat operations and other causes related to fighting in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars. This press release describes how Veterans With Hearing Loss are now Welcomed at RIT/NTID.
  • Sean Forbes is a young deaf man who has always loved music and made it his passion to create music videos for both deaf and hearing people. He is now featured on the CNN website under “People Who Rock.” Congratulations! I especially loved his music video “Waiting on the World to Change” – the deaf interpretation of John Mayer’s song. John Mayer originally sang this song with some implicit political statements against the Bush administration. However, with the deaf interpretation it was almost like an anthem for the deaf people to go out and bring more changes to the world.
  • Listen up, small businesses! If you make your business more accessible to the deaf, you might notice increased traffic and more money flowing in for your business – thanks to tax credits and general positive publicity as demonstrated in this article about a franchise that decided to bring in accessible ordering system for the deaf people at drive-in. Potential customers? This quote says it all: "In one month, we got 6,400 responses"
  • And… I saved the best for the last: President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech is captioned at HULU and Bill Creswell has it up at his blog. Watch and relive the historical moment again and again – with captions!

Thank you

“Thank you!”

That’s a word I’ve been saying a lot in the past two days due to the public relations about my Local Grassroots Leadership award. I was already deeply honored by getting the award but having people come up to me from left and right to congratulate me as I was going through my day, finding emails from professors in nearly every department, and getting such kind comments and emails from the internet world – it hit me that I really credit my award to many others, not just myself.

I credit my personality and tough working ethic to my family – especially my parents, who have raised and seen me through the good and bad. Their unconditional love and support is really the reason why I have managed to get through busy schedules to contribute as much as I can. Also, this blog would not exist if not for my father’s casual, almost offhand suggestion that I take along a small white Flip video-camera to the Democratic National Convention to do vlogs. I never imagined how monumental that suggestion turned out to be. I am deeply grateful to my family for everything, from my DNA to their love to the fabulous home cooked meals whenever I visit the family.

I credit my post-secondary education and opportunities to Gallaudet University – especially the wonderful professors. Nowhere else will you find more outstanding faculty with diverse backgrounds who have different things to bring to the table that truly benefit the students. I’ve enjoyed deep conversations, moral mentoring, been inspired, been intensely simulated in classes, and received excellent opportunities in academic programs offered.

What is so wonderful about Gallaudet University? Often, people everywhere will say – “Because it’s the only liberal arts university for the deaf in the world

There are too many reasons why Gallaudet University is a great place to be. For one, it’s located in Washington DC – the political center of happenings. The direct access to communication on campus cannot be beaten. Everybody understands the culture of deaf people here. The fabric of social networking and the people you’ll meet are without boundaries. The rich history is also something of deep pride to all of the Gallaudet University community.

President Barack Obama has a deep reverence for one of the greats – Abraham Lincoln. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln signed the charter for Gallaudet University? The aura of political greatness hangs over Gallaudet University. However, now is the perfect time for us to internalize the admiration we have for our icons and go out and be great ourselves. We are the ones we have been waiting for. It’s time for us to take on the responsibility of the world and go out to work hard to help make the world a better place for the next generation.

I remember President Robert Davila once said something along the lines of (I cannot find the source of the quote, but it never left my mind): “Before Gallaudet University, deaf people could not have access to higher education. After Gallaudet University, deaf people have gone on to be professors, administrators, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and more.

I want to take this time to thank Gallaudet University for all the opportunities they have given me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leah Katz-Hernandez: The First 100 Days (And SNOW!!)


Leah Katz-Hernandez: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the beautiful Capitol – on a snowy day. You can see the snow blanketing it all over... How nice! I remember when I was a little girl, there was a picture in my grandfather’s office of the Capitol thickly covered in snow. I always looked at it and admired how beautiful it looked, wondering when I would be in the picture itself. And now here I am!

Anyway, I want to explain more about Obama’s “First 100 Days.” What does that mean? The concept of the “first 100 days” started with FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt). You know, he was president during the times of Great Depression and World War II. He really was successful because in his first 100 days of his term, he made a lot of progress and he got 15 major bills passed and a lot of other projects finished. He really ran through it. The people looked at his progress and were impressed with how he was so productive, so effective. It helped him to have greater general confidence in his performance. That perception was important because it enabled him to accomplish more for the rest of his term(s). And so that was also applied to other presidents after FDR. Basically, the “first 100 days” means something like a “grading period” in which a president is being scrutinized for his job performance, how well he does, how much he gets accomplished, etc. If he does well, then that means that he will be more likely to receive greater support and positive public opinion and it’ll be easier for him to get things done for the rest of his term. If a president struggles during that time – like Jimmy Carter, he encountered problems and setbacks during his first 100 days – then it’ll cause further difficulties and problems for the president and make it harder for him to get things done in the administration. So that’s why the “first 100 days” is important. President Obama has gotten some things done lately, a lot of major stuff he’s trying to do now. So I want you to keep on watching. Keep your opinion broad. Watch closely and be critical. What do you think??? Be serious and think deeply about it... Because the “first 100 days” is truly one of the most important days of his entire administration. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Semester, New Purpose

Hello My Readers!

I have been busy with the beginning of a new semester at Gallaudet University. I hope it will be a great semester for me, balancing school and my other passions (such as this blog). I am excited to have a schedule of classes that will focus entirely on my major Government and minor English. I will be taking two classes about International government and since that will be an area to explore for me, I hope to incorporate some information in this blog also.

So, what will be new this semester about my blog's content? My goals this semester are to:

  • Continue to do Vlogs and interviews in ASL with a variety of people examining the spectrum of politics.
  • Fundraise the money to renovate my blog so to make it even more accessible for new readers. I hope to include a section that will make it easier for deaf people to know how to register to vote, where to go for that, and how they may be involved with local politics.
  • Increase greater awareness of Deaf Youth USA and Global Reach Out organizations. I believe that both these organizations, recently formed, truly hold great potential for the young deaf community and can do a lot in terms of bringing us together for the common purpose of doing good.
  • Broaden the topics that I discuss in my blog to international issues. I will encourage discussion and understanding of foreign policy. Why? Because, like I said in this "The Deaf Community and Globalism" entry, the deaf community in one country care deeply for the welfare of deaf people in other countries.

I am proud to have been featured in Gallaudet's official blog "Inside Gallaudet" for the second time in a short period. The latest article talks about my "Local Grassroots Leadership" Award. You can see it here: Student Recognized as Grassroots Leader.

It's going to be an interesting period of time with the first 100 days of President Obama's administration. We will get to see how he performs with the heavy inheritance. In closing, I would like to say: Size matters. It's the size of your spirit that matters. Everything else is just an illusion.

Finally, I'd like to thank Toronja Willams greatly for her wonderful contribution to this blog recording the deaf perspective of such a historical event: the Inauguration!

Adieu and stay healthy!

- Leah

Friday, January 23, 2009

Toronja Williams' UPIC's Inaugural Ball

The UPIC's Inaugural Gala in the

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
As part of the culmination of the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC) event, I glamorously and memorably celebrated the inaugural night in the nation’s capital which was buzzed with excitement as the inauguration celebration came towards its end. Just a mile away from the Capitol, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum held a Black Tie Gala Inaugural Ball. In this beautiful and spacious ball, a number of former and current scholars were packed around the hall snapping pictures and exchanging laughters. At the back of the hall are a small live band, playing a variety of live music near the displayed fine and beautiful candle lighted dinner tables containing the delicious Hors d'Ĺ“uvres and desserts. Everybody who was there had an awesome time, including me!

In wrapping up this blog segment, I would like to show my “token” of gratitude towards a few persons. First, I appreciate the UPIC for allowing me to experience this honorable and extraordinary historic moment which would become the crowning achievement in my education throughout my life. Second, I sincerely appreciate my family for giving me confidence and encouragement in participating in this event. Third, I thank my supportive staff and interpreters at UPIC for making this opportunity possible!! Last but not least, I want to thank everyone for reading my blog.

Farewell to UPIC!!!

UPIC's Event: The Presidential Inauguration at the National Mall

The Presidential Inauguration moment has finally arrived!!! For the first time in HISTORY, the National Mall has opened for Obama’s presidential inauguration. After a week of being involved in the UPIC events, I waited to witness this historical moment take place in Washington, DC. At the National Mall, I witnessed firsthand a democratic action take place as the President-elect take the oath of office, a peaceful transition towards becoming the next 44th President of the United States!!! Following the oath of office, the newly President presented his inaugural address, setting out his visions and goals for America. Everything turned out to be so beautiful, so harmonious and so powerful!!!

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the 44TH President of United States of America!!!

Toronja Williams at the Newseum/National Press Club

Before leaving for the Inaugual parade, I visited the National Press Club (NPC), which was a few blocks away from where the President-Elect would take the oath at the National Mall. In this beautiful place, I had an opportunity to take a preview of the inaugural moment from the hugh screen TVs which was held everywhere in the building. And, this signified that the NPC organization was in support of the media and news in politics.

Beautiful beautiful flags hung around the building which signified that the NPC organization valued the importance of globalization.
(Photo on the left: me standing inside the NPC building pointing to the sign)

(Photo on the left: me standing in the hallway of the NPC before leaving for the Inaugural address)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Toronja Williams' UPIC Keynote Adress: A Call to Action by Al Gore

A Global Warming Danger
in Our
Technological and Environmental Society

Most of the industrialists claim that the average global temperature this year is equal to the average global temperature of last year. Global warming is therefore, not a serious problem. However, many environmentalists rank global warming as the most serious current threat to the world's environment, citing evidence that over the past 30 years, the global temperature has risen an average of two degrees.
Al Gore, a former Vice President of the United States of America and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, gave a keynote address at the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC). Al Gore mentioned that global warming has been a matter of urgency and national security concern, thus, bringing the awareness of the danger with solutions for handling the climate change issue.
President Obama, although has not tapped Gore for his cabinet for any high level post in the administration, he continued to team up with Gore with the energy secretary and the Environmental Protection Agency administrators in occasion meetings to outline several energy goals as part of the $825 Billions massive “To Re-Power America” economic stimulus plan. “Global Warming is something that we must deal with now, not 10 or 20 years from now” urged Al Gore. He encouraged every American to conserve energy, thus, making America more cleaner and more efficient.


Toronja Williams' UPIC Panel Selection: Understanding Political Philosophy

During a panel discussion, a political philosopher, Eugene Jarecki presented his interesting views on issues such as race, laws, and democracy to UPIC scholars. To read his philosophical essay entitled "An Ode to Tomorrow", please click on the blue colored front link. Enjoy!

Toronja Williams' UPIC Panel Selection: Digital Democracy: The Web's Impact and Politics

Web Advertising: A New Breakthrough in Technology
The Digital Democracy: The Web's Impact and Politics workshop has fueled my inner passion and creativity in political advertising. Mike Krempasky, a founder of and a Political Director at American Target Advertisement taught UPIC scholars about volunteer internet activism and conservative grassroots activism through using technology. As a patron saint of the blogosphere nation, Mike Krempasky has strongly encouraged UPIC scholars to campaign through using the internet.
Although, many political candidates object to being made the target of advertising designed to cast them in an adverse light, but such advertising actually benefits its targets because most elections have been won by candidates who were the targets of that kind of advertising. Therefore, investigative blogosphere journalism, containing interviews, profiles and guest columns actually does bring benefits to the politicians. Similarly, as in Deaf culture, I know that most Deaf companies consider the use of technology as beneficial when they use video phones, blackberry phones, etc., for web advertisements.
Mr. Krempasky has also convinced us that technology advertisements were slightly better than the traditional advertisements for example, magazines, newspapers, new broadcasting segments, which most voters used to learn about their candidates, thusly, have increased the ballot votes. This workshop was entirely awesome, thus, giving me new ideas for using the vlog/blog, today.

Toronja Williams' UPIC Panel Selection: Headlines and Deadlines

Toronja Williams' UPIC Panel Selection: All's Fair in Love, War and Politics

From attending a very interesting and a very important workshop hosted by two hard-core politicians, the youthful audience felt a wave of excitement from listening to these politicians. Politician, James Carville, a democratic strategist and CNN political contributor and politician, Mary Matalin, a commentator and former assistant to President George W. Bush, both have arrived to the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC) to present their stories.

As in the historical politics of the Deaf People, we as Deaf individuals, are in conflict with ourselves when we identify ourselves as partly Deaf and partly Hard of Hearing, similarly, this couple is also at the opposite end of the political spectrum, James supported the Democratic Party whereas Mary supported the Republican Party (interesting twists, here!). Taking turns to speak at the podium, Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin divulged about their two-party feuds in a co-authored book, All’s Fair; Love, war and Running for President, an olympic-winning book on the New York Bestseller List this year.

In the presentation, Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin explained stories of trumping the individual differences in their relationships, for example, they were dating across different party ideological lines, such as their political views differ significantly from their own. The stunning details of their everyday pressures and of their everyday recounting moments of power plays; and of the clandestine maneuvers of Americans politicians and the near disasters and triumphs of presidential campaigns all have brought us on a “rollercoaster moment”, keeping us strappily tightened in our chairs throughout the show.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Exclusive Footage!!! People at the Windows

This is where I finally saw Obama get sworn in... See the metal grate that I was standing on? The day was so freezing cold but that grate had hot air blowing upwards. So I stood on it and it was nice, kept me warm :-)

The metal grate also served another cool purpose. As the 21 salutes went off, it was so loud, everybody could feel it in their chests. But the metal grate I was standing on made the vibrations even more VIVID and LOUD. I could literally feel the booming in my bone marrow and outwards. It was a great moment when the 21 salutes went off and I was standing on the metal grate that clattered along with the booms :-)

Exclusive Footage!! At the Gates on Inauguration Day

This is how close I was at getting in...

Was I disappointed I didn't get in? No. Just because I was right next to the Mall when Obama was inaugurated, it doesn't mean I wasn't part of the history. I was there. I was part of the masses of people. I met and made random friends. I saw Obama get sworn in live, after all (even if it was on TV).

For rest of my life, I will always see the Inauguration of Barack Obama on television replays. But for just ONE day, I was THERE. I'll be able to say: I was there... I saw the Capitol. I saw history and I was part of it. Nothing could satisfy me more than that.


This shows the reason why I wasn't able to get into the Mall for Inauguration viewing. It was just simply too packed with so many people trying to get into there. I waited in the line for hours, got all the way up to the gate but it closed before I could get in.

This was taken on 1st and D street.

Dictionary: In deaf slang, "True Biz" or "True business" means something like... "Seriously!! I mean it! No bullshit!"

Leah Katz-Hernandez: Obama's Inauguration


Leah Katz-Hernandez: I just saw Barack Obama’s Inauguration. I actually had a ticket with me to the Inauguration but it was so crowded and packed with people – it was really amazing. It was so bad that I happened upon my professor who had been waiting to get into the Mall area since 5:30 AM, yet she still couldn’t get in. As for me, I went to the place at 9 AM. I battled the crowds and made it all the way to the metal gates. I was right there, I was so close. But it closed. It was finished, I couldn’t enter. Undeterred, I looked around and saw people gathering near the large glass windows of a hotel. They had a television inside. I went up to the glass... It was just perfect, it was at the exact moment when Obama got up and held up his hand. I looked at him, transfixed. He spoke the oath. And the all of sudden, I could hear – feel – the boom, boom, and boom of the 21 salutes. It hit all of us. As we felt the vibrations of booms, the people just looked at each other... and we cheered, pure happiness was in the air, some people cried, and many did the victory fist-bump. I just stood there and looked around. I knew that it was truly official that Obama had become our President. I felt deeply inspired. I was watching the Inauguration through a window. The window reflected a man in my line of vision, and the television behind the window. I could see Obama in the TV past the window. And the reflection showed a man standing near me. The Capitol was behind him. I looked at it symbolically: The man was standing there with a little boy in front of him waving an American flag. The face of Obama on TV was melded through the reflection in the chest of that man standing near me, with the Capitol behind him. I could just so strongly see the symbolic significance of that image. It’s like Obama is really inside all of us. Everyone, all of us. What he represents – hope, the ability to prosper, and the values of American ideals. Those ideals truly are above all of us, what we all aspire to. I stood there, I thought to myself, today’s a special, historical day. But we should take a pause and reflect about what’s so deeply sacred to us: The American Dream. It’s now more real than ever. Now nothing is impossible. From now on, anything is possible. I just felt so deeply touched. I can’t really describe it in words. But at the same time – that image was perfect – Obama is inside all of us. We all are like Obama in our own ways. And that’s truly wonderful and dear... Thank you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Leah Katz-Hernandez: The Inaugural Ball

Leah Katz-Hernandez: Hello! I want to say, welcome to the Latino Inaugural Celebration. This event is one of the many different Inauguration celebrations/balls/gala/parties happening around the city of Washington DC in celebration of Barack Obama’s presidency. I’m standing here in a beautiful building, Organization of American States. Really, this building is just gorgeous! It’s extremely beautiful, old, historical, and just grand! Very fancy building... Take a look around, look at the many flags up there!

(Camera pans around the hallway)

Leah Katz-Hernandez: Come on. Let’s enter the gala and see what it looks like around here... That’s what an Inaugural Ball looks like.

(Camera pans around the ballroom)

Leah Katz-Hernandez: Grassroots Leadership Award


(Video begins with panning of beautiful courtyard greenery)

Leah: Hello, hello!! See, I’m wearing a pretty dress... Why am I wearing a pretty dress? Because I’m at the Latino Inaugural Celebration at the Organization of American States. This is considered something like the United Nations of (United States of) America and all the other nations of the South America and all that. So we’re celebrating the Latino involvement with America’s historical election of Barack Obama. Why was I invited? Why did I get two tickets here? It’s because I was honored with an award... So, why did I get this award? It says “Local Grass Roots Leadership 2009” ... 2009, yeah. It’s basically because I worked hard to encourage the participation of all people – deaf, hearing, or whatever you call yourself – it doesn’t matter, the important thing is that you get involved with politics. And you VOTE. So I was encouraging all that and they decided to recognize me for that. I was so touched, inspired, and flattered! I want to say... why? Why did I get this award? Is it simply because of what I did? NO. It’s because of YOU. YOUR attention helped me reach greater prominence. It’s because I felt it was really important that all of you GET involved in the political process. Therefore, when I got recognized – they recognized all of you, too. Your connection, your desire to get involved all truly validated. So I really feel that this award is in honor of all of you. I want to truly thank all of you. I really look forward to more political participation with you!! It doesn’t matter if you’re deaf, hearing, or more labels... WE CAN!!!

The Crowds at Metro

It's REALLY starting! A glimpse of how crowded the Metro was at Smithsonian station during the Lincoln Memorial's concert and Inaugural welcoming event.

Joel Garcia: What I Learned


Joel Garcia describes what he learned at The Washington Center's Presidential Academic Seminar. Truly a RICH experience! It is his second seminar and in this experience we have been learning about the relationship between the media and the presidency. We have been privy to exclusive and detailed information leading to greater understanding of how politics works. It's a very enjoyable experience!

Meghan Venturini: The Metro


Meghan Venturini, a 4th-year Government major at Gallaudet University, describes what the Metro will be like on Inauguration Day. There will be estimated 4 million people coming to Washington DC and the roads in and out of DC will be closed. So that makes for using the metro extremely crowded. Imagine what it will be like!

Travel safe!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inaugural Tidbits

I got to admit something. I usually assume that most of my readers know DeafRead and read my entries from there. Therefore, I automatically assume that I shouldn’t repeat the information from other deaf blogs that also mention political stuff, relevant issues, and talk about the Inauguration as well.

However, it has come to my attention that there is also a substantial amount of readership from outside the mass. I believe that no readers, whether or not if they come from or outside of, should be left behind when it comes to deaf political consciousness.

Therefore, I will start linking to other blog entries that are relevant. This will show much of the world that the deaf community truly does have an unique and differing perspectives on the political process of America and beyond! For this entry, I’d like to focus on Inaugural tidbits!

I am also pleased to announce that for the second time in one school year, The Deaf Perspective is featured in the official Gallaudet University blog “Inside Gallaudet.” You can read the article about the Gallaudet delegation to The Washington Center’s Presidential Academic Seminar for Inauguration 2009 and my blog there.

The Deaf Perspective’s Inaugural Tidbits:

  • (Edit) Obama’s name-sign for the signing community is discussed in this vlog.
  • Illinois School for the Deaf saw the beginning of their beloved formed Senator’s historical campaign for the President. They were there for it all through the campaign, and now for the Inauguration – 32 of the Illinois School for the Deaf’s students will be going to Washington DC, staying at the world’s only liberal arts university for the deaf, and watching Barack Obama get sworn in as the 44th President of America! They are blogging about it daily, as well.
  • Everywhere, we see the inspirational mantra being repeated again and again on t-shirts, posters, buttons, hats, and more. “Martin Luther King JR: The Dreamer. Barack Obama: The Dream.” Now, this blogger has Martin Luther King JR’s original speech in closed captions.
  • NAD’s Advocacy Blog is the best blog to go to regarding information for Inauguration day and ADA issues. Here, they write about where the ADA accessible places are for Inauguration Day.
  • Not in Washington DC? Watching the Inauguration online via live stream is possible with closed captions. Courtesy of Jared Evans’ blog.
  • This article shows the deaf perspective – exclusively RIT/NTID – on the Inauguration, talking about the alumni who are involved.

Ok, I’m out for the night. More later! :-)

All Exclusive!!! The Lincoln Memorial Celebration

The Inauguration Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial
At the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presented his I Have a Dream speech, the number of famous and most-sought stars and other prominent figures has kicked off the weekend’s inaugural festival, called the Obamapalooza. Our President-Elect Barack Obama welcomed thousands of beautiful Americans to the inauguration event. Before arriving to the memorial, in honor of celebrating his political successor, Abraham Lincoln, Obama mimicked the old 1861 tradition of this former President on a historical railroad journey from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.
(On TV: Millions of listeners recalled the President-Elect Barack Obama’s speech as one of the most memorial and powerful speeches in history.)

The HBO has exclusively televised We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at a free and open to public celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial featuring some of the high-profiled names in the entertainment industry: Bono, Garth Brooks, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce Knowles, and Stevie Wonder all showed their striking all-star performances, thereby impacting the audience. Other Hollywood actresses and actors, Denzel Washington, Rosario Dawson and Ashley Judd showed their supports with inspiring and touching comments. People cheered, shouted, and roared, showing overwhelming supports and reconcilements which signified with this year’s political slogans, CHANGE and YES, WE CAN.

I have never seen so many major artists and talent persons come together to celebrate this huge historical moment. But, it was so incredible and amazing to witness it, Live!!! Did President-Elect present his famous speech? Yes! President-Elect Barack Obama moved people with his powerful speech about his visions of sending children to college with a college fund, settling the economic crisis and resolving the foreign conflicts across national broader. Together as men and woman, black and white, gay and straight, disability and non- disability, we all can come together to change the world and to make a difference. Leaving the Lincoln Memorial brought a feeling of empowerment and patriotism as I glanced at the persons snapping pictures and buying Obama materials. The concert was truly one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. I wish I could wave a magic wand so that you all could be here!

(On TV: Beyonce Knowles amazingly performed to thousands of American fans.).

(Photo on the left: Standing in the center of the memorial, I realized that I was very passionate about this historical moment.)

Toronja introduces you to Colin Powell

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”
-Colin Powel
Welcome back Fellow Friends!

Powerful leaders often are considered the ones to make huge impacts on the American political system, thusly, convincing the government to adopt their goals and initiatives, however, this notion is false. The voices and actions of Americans are as equally powerful as the politicians in making an impact on the political system in our U.S. government.
Colin Powell, the first African-American appointed to the 65TH United States Secretary of State under the former President George W. Bush Administration, a four-star General, and the Joint Chief Staff in Washington, DC has appeared before thousands of UPIC scholars, today. Colin emphasized that our volunteerism and activism skills in our U.S. government are perhaps very important.

“Let’s focus on the part about having a vision. When your vision is realized by others, others will change the society with your idea” urged Colin. He also emphasized that American people shall poise a courageous attitude, trustworthy attitude and persistent attitude to overcome the odds in dealing with unexpected tasks. As our economy and financial markets struggle through unprecedented turmoil, Colin encouraged American people to come forward and serve the beautiful nation. “My experience is that in time of need the American people recognize that they have to do more than they might have done.” stressed Colin.

With his sharp wits and dynamic personae, and amazing courage, he urged leaders to build trust, to be the last to rest, and to have a coherent vision.


The Impact of Latino Political Training

To begin this entry, I’d like to mention the National Association for the Deaf’s Youth Leadership Camp motto:

“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I understand.”

Nothing could be truer for political participation. Yesterday was one of the best days of my whole life. I went to a Latino Political Training hosted by the National Council of La Raza. I had already mentioned about the types of political conferences, seminars, and the like in my Vlog “The New Media.” Going to the political training was a first for me, as I had attended seminars before but not training session. And the experience was so beneficial!

Through a series of presenters talking about fund raising, campaigning for public offices, organizational success, grassroots strategy, and even lobbying tips, so much resources was put into my mind that I could not contain it all and ended up taking over 15 pages of notes on my laptop!! I was bursting with so much ideas, bottled-up energy, ambition, and inspiration that I was ready to pop at the end of the day.

And I did – it just happened to be pure coincidence that I was slated to attend a Deaf Youth USA’s (DYUSA, for short) Inaugural Gala right after the political training ended at 5 pm. There, I talked incessantly about what I learned at the training and the amazing potential that DYUSA has for encouraging greater political participation, it being a youth organization for the deaf, full of bright and active young deaf people, and a grassroots organization at that, too. The reaction was positive and I was invited to the DYUSA board meeting the next day.

So today, I went to the DYUSA board meeting and implanted to them what I had learned from yesterday’s day at the National Council of La Raza. I gave them the resources. I transferred the power of knowledge. So, you see the direct impact that the political training of National Council of La Raza has had on the deaf community... not even 24 hours after-wards!!

I emphasized that it’s really vital to expand our mind-set and look for political allies with other communities. I view the Latino community as the perfect political ally for several reasons. One, our cultures are both separate, with separate languages, yet they are also unusually similar in many ways. The information I learned at the training was mostly for Latino community but it could all so easily apply to the deaf community as well. The Latino concerns are also similar to the deaf community - access to education, gaining a greater voice, and bilingualism. The Latino potential for a political ally is also something that I had already previously noted in this blog entry about Colorado Senator Ken Salazar (he is now working for Obama).

It’s always important for us in the deaf community to push and advocate for our issues and disability issues but when we expand our focus, we can really benefit from it. Here’s an excerpt from my training notes:

“It’s about actually working together. Where the power is. And how you use the power, too. All the minority groups think they’re divided. The answer is simple, work together. Roll up your sleeves and be creative.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

UPIC's Welcome Dinner and Opening Night Ceremony

Good Evening!!!

I am at Washington, DC, ready to kick off the University Presidential Inauguration Conference (UPIC) event. To those of you home abroad whom are turning in to read my blog segment to find out what’s going on UPIC, let me welcome you, again! I’ve been here in the hotel since this early afternoon. So far, I’ve spent most of my time unpacking, I can tell you that the Marriott hotel is so beautiful and the staff is so helpful and so deaf-friendly, here.

On Saturday afternoon, I saw a few UPIC scholars milling around the lobby, but at around 5ish, I saw as many as 5,000 attendees arriving, the conference started rocking to its unique beat. Through meeting new UPIC scholars and reuniting old International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP), I began to feel more comfortable and more confident. Just as I thought about coming to this conference, I reminded myself that the experiences here are what I make of it. So, I make the most of my experiences here.

University Presidential Inaugural Conference’s Opening Night Ceremony
Many politicians regard youth voters as unimportant and unengaged voters, neither impacting the politics nor making a difference in mainstream. However, this notion is false. American youth do impact the politics, bringing the issues that affect the Americans in our today’s society to the forefront in our political system.

Mr. Russert, a recent Boston History and Communication major, became a News correspondent reporting for many of NBC’s outlets, including NBC Nightly News” Today, MSNBC and MSNB.COM. As the son of the late passing, NBC News journalist Tim Russert, Luke Russert lectured at several national political conventions, covering the general elections and, the issues of youth voting which has increased throughout the election this year. Standing near the podium, he advocated for CHANGE, addressing the issue related to youth political activism and patriotism. His uproariously funny stories of confession, apology and reconciliation of new young correspondents in the news industry interested the UPIC participants. His powerful speech, Making an Impact: The Youth Vote and Beyond has influenced us to become the next 21st century political game -changers for our communities.

Toronja Williams welcomes you to UPIC!!!

The Road to the Presidential Inauguration 2009
****All Access ****
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Your Excellencies and Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!!! BIG hello! My name is Toronja Williams and I graduated from the College of New Jersey last may 2008 with a major in International Studies with a concentration in Diplomacy. One year ago, I opened a letter that I received from my postmaster and scoured over the message “You have been personally selected to attend the University Presidential Inaugural Conference (UPIC) in Washington, DC, celebrating the inauguration of the President and Vice President of the United States". After six grueling months of prepping for my brain-sucking LSAT, I have been anticipating for taking part in this conference as a UPIC scholar. I am not mind reader but I predict that many of you beautiful persons are wondering what is UPIC? By no means, I will explain. UPIC is a one-week program which offers alumni of the International Scholar Laureate Program on Diplomacy and International Relations (ISLP) in China the opportunity to participate and to serve as a personal witness to one of the most historic and precedent-setting inaugural ceremonies in the history of our United State of America. Let me give a big shout out to ISLP scholars whom recognize me. Here is my BIG hello to YOU!!!

At the UPIC, I enroll in several workshops where distinguished leaders come to present their political views in across academia, business, politics and entertainment. The speakers’ topical debates and candid dialogues of issues will help me to understand of the presidential election and the nation’s democratic principles. Besides the workshops, we participate in the inaugural activities that take places the Capitol Hill such as the Presidential Inaugural address, inaugural parade and inaugural ball. This year’s conference is a huge one where we celebrate the Presidential Inauguration of our 44th First African-American President of the United States of America. Go Obama!!! At the conference, I will gain awareness about several of issues ranging from technology, global warming, and politics. I also will develop my personal growth through my interaction with the Washington’s prominent leaders through collaborating with them in several projects and networking tasks. Starting today through Wednesday, January 22nd, 2009, I will post my blog entries of my UPIC experiences here and hope that my stories shall find you feeling uplifted and inspired!!!