Detail View: RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive: Finding myself as a Deaf adult

Filename: 
ds_0049_vallifindingmyself_cap_01.mp4
Identifier: 
ds_0049_vallifindingmyself_cap_01.mp4
Title: 
Finding myself as a Deaf adult
Creator: 
Valli, Clayton
Subject: 
Valli, Clayton
Subject: 
Deaf Biography
Subject: 
Deaf Education
Subject: 
Deaf culture
Subject: 
Poetry Authorship
Subject: 
American Sign Language literature
Subject: 
Deaf Poetry
Subject: 
ASL poetry
Summary: 
Clayton Valli is introduced as an instructor in the Department of Linguistics and Interpreting at Gallaudet. He is pursuing Ph.D studies at the Union Institute. The topic of the presentation is about influences on his life and he describes his family background, going to Deaf schools, further education, various employment, using and teaching ASL, developing a stronger identity, and how he discovered poetry.
Publisher: 
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Digital Publisher: 
Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT Libraries - RIT Archive Collections
Date of Original: 
1991
Date of Digitization: 
2018
Broad Type: 
moving image
Digital File Format: 
mp4
Physical Format: 
VHS
Dimensions of Original: 
58 minutes
Language: 
American Sign Language
Language: 
English
Original Item Location: 
RITDSA.0049
Library Collection: 
Sculptures in the Air: An Accessible Online Video Repository of the American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry and Literature Collections
Library Collection: 
ASL Lecture Series DVDs
Digital Project: 
2018-2019 CLIR Grant-ASL Poetry and Literature
Catalog Record: 
https://albert.rit.edu/record=b3955823
Catalog Record: 
https://twcarchivesspace.rit.edu/repositories/2/resources/837
Place: 
New York - Rochester
RIT Spaces and Places: 
Henrietta Campus
Rights: 
RIT Libraries makes materials from its collections available for educational and research purposes pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. It is your responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.
Rights: 
CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Transcript: 
OUR GUEST SPEAKER IS NAMED CLAYTON VALLI. THIS IS HIS NAME SIGN, BUT I AM ACCUSTOMED TO USING THIS NAME SIGN. WE ENTERED NTID TOGETHER THE SAME SVP IN 1971, AND WE HAD ANOTHER NAME SIGN FOR HIM AT THAT TIME. THIS NAME SIGN WAS GIVEN TO HIM BECAUSE HE HAD LONG HAIR, WORE JEANS WITH PATCHES ON THEM. HE WAS A BEATNIK. SO WE WOULD CALL HIM BY THIS NAME SIGN. YEARS AND YEARS LATER WHEN HE WENT TO GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY AND BECAME INVOLVED IN POETRY-- THIS IS THE SIGN FOR POETRY-- HE BECAME KNOWN BY THIS NAME SIGN. THE OTHER NIGHT HE TOLD ME ABOUT THAT. AND IT'S BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A STRONGER SMOKER, AND THAT'S WHY HE GOT THIS NAME SIGN. HE'S QUIT SMOKING. SO HE MOVED THE NAME SIGN OVER TO THE SIDE INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL SMOKING GESTURE. ANYWAY. I'LL EXPLAIN ABOUT HIS BACKGROUND A LITTLE BIT-- WHERE HE GRADUATED, WHICH COLLEGES HE ATTENDED. AND RIGHT NOW HE IS WORKING AT GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY IN THE DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND INTERPRETING. HE'S A FULL-TIME INSTRUCTOR THERE, AT THE SAME TIME IS STUDYING FOR HIS PhD... AT A COLLEGE IN CINCINNATI THAT IS NAMED UNION INSTITUTE IN CINCINNATI, OHIO. NOW I WOULD LIKE TO INTRODUCE CLAYTON VALLI. [APPLAUSE] THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. FOR TODAY'S PRESENTATION, I FEEL A LITTLE BIT OUT OF MY ELEMENT. I TYPICALLY WRITE VERY ELABORATE TALKS ABOUT CULTURE OR POETRY OR LINGUISTICS, AND THEY'RE OFTEN VERY SCIENTIFIC AND VERY INVOLVED AND COMPLICATED. BUT TODAY WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS AT ALL. I'M TALKING ABOUT MYSELF. OHH, MY GOODNESS. I REALLY LIKE THIS. THIS IS A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FOR ME. AND WHY NOT? SO I WROTE DOWN A NUMBER OF NOTES ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME AS I'VE GROWN UP. AND I TITLED THIS "FINDING MYSELF AS A DEAF ADULT." AS A KID, YOU KNOW, I WAS EXPOSED TO SO MUCH AND SURROUNDED AS IF IN A COCOON. I DIDN'T REALLY SEE WHO I WAS. SO FINALLY I RID MYSELF OF THE TRAPPINGS, AND I HAVE TO ADMIT I FOUND SOME SILK IS LEFT. BUT AT ANY RATE, LET'S REWIND THE TAPE QUITE A WAYS. I'M NOT GONNA TELL YOU HOW LONG, BUT I WAS BORN DEAF. MY PARENTS ARE HEARING. AND MY BROTHER CAME ALONG A YEAR LATER, AND WE'RE BOTH DEAF. WE ALSO FOUND THAT MY MOTHER'S SISTER HAD A DEAF COUSIN. MY MOTHER'S SISTER HAD A CHILD WHO WAS DEAF. AND WE CONSIDERED HIM A BROTHER. THE 3 OF US REALLY GREW UP TOGETHER. FROM THE TIME I WAS BORN UNTIL I WAS 3, I REALLY DON'T HAVE MUCH OF ANY MEMORIES AT ALL. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON. I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED. SORRY ABOUT THAT. BUT AT THE AGE OF 3, I WENT INTO A TYPE OF SCHOOL. IT WAS CALLED THE BEVERLY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF IN MASSACHUSETTS, IN BEVERLY, MASSACHUSETTS. MY MOTHER BROUGHT ME TO THE SCHOOL SO THAT I COULD LEARN HOW TO USE MY SPEECH AND LIPREADING AND HOW I COULD COMMUNICATE WITH MY PARENTS. AND THAT WAS THE TYPE OF PROGRAM THAT IT WAS. I DON'T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT IT, BUT SHE'S FILLED ME IN ON THE DETAILS AS I'VE GOTTEN OLDER. AT THE AGE OF 4, SHE PUT ME IN THE SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF-- THE AUSTINE SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF IN BRATTLEBORO, VERMONT. AT THAT TIME, THERE WAS NO SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, AND THAT'S WHERE WE LIVED. MY PARENTS WERE VERY DISAPPOINTED THAT THEY HAVE TO PUT ME WAY OVER IN VERMONT. IT WAS QUITE A DISTANCE. BUT MY FATHER MADE THE DETERMINATION AND MY MOTHER, NO MATTER HOW SHE COMPLAINED AND STRUGGLED AND DENIED IT, THAT'S WHERE I WENT. I REALLY AM VERY GRATEFUL TO MY FATHER FOR TAKING THAT STRONG STAND BECAUSE SO MANY THINGS INFLUENCED ME WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL THERE. I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS LITTLE JUST ARRIVING AT THE SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF AND MY FIRST EXPERIENCES. I REMEMBER SOME OF MY FIRST TEACHERS. THEY OFTEN WROTE ON THE BOARD. THEY WOULD WRITE A SENTENCE LIKE, "IT IS" AND THEN PUT A SPACE AND THEN A PERIOD. OR THEY'D WRITE, "BOB HAS A NEW" SPACE, PERIOD. OH, YOU GET THE IDEA. THAT KIND OF SIMPLE SENTENCE. THEN I'D LOOK AT THOSE, AND THEN I'D SHOUT OUT, "NOW IS WEDNESDAY, SO IT IS WEDNESDAY." AND SHE WOULD SAY, "YES, VERY GOOD." NO MATTER WHAT THE TYPE OF WEATHER, WE ALWAYS WENT OUTSIDE, SO I COULD ALWAYS FEEL LIKE IT IS SUNNY OR LIKE WHAT IS NEW OR LIKE--SO I COPIED A LOT OF LANGUAGE. AND THAT'S REALLY ALL I REMEMBER. I DON'T REMEMBER REALLY LEARNING IT. I WOULD COPY IT. I DID SEND LETTERS HOME ON A WEEKLY BASIS, THOUGH, AND THIS WOULD BE SOME OF THE STUFF I'D LEARN IN SCHOOL. DESPITE THAT, I REALLY HAD NOT A VERY GOOD RAPPORT WITH MY TEACHERS. I WAS IN TROUBLE ALL THE TIME, AND MY TEACHERS WERE SICK OF ME IN SHORT ORDER. I WAS ALWAYS CAUSING TROUBLE AND DOING SOMETHING AND FOUND MYSELF IN DETENTION MORE TIMES THAN I CAN TELL YOU. THEY'D SEND ME TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE, AND I'D GET SERIOUS LECTURES ON A REGULAR BASIS. ONE TIME I'LL NEVER FORGET, THE TEACHER TOOK ME OUT TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE, AND HE WAS FINALLY FED UP WITH ME. AND HE PUT ME IN THE BASEMENT WHERE IT WAS DARK. AND I'LL TELL YOU, THAT'S AN EXPERIENCE I'LL NEVER FORGET. AND FROM THAT POINT ON, I GOT MUCH WORSE. I WAS A REAL MESS FROM THAT MOMENT ON, EMOTIONALLY AND EVERY OTHER WAY. WITH TEACHERS AND WITH FRIENDS AND WITH STUDENTS, I WAS CAUSING TROUBLE IN ALL ARENAS EVERYWHERE. AND I'LL EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT LATER, ABOUT WHAT MY BEHAVIOR WAS REALLY INDICATING AT THAT TIME. SO DURING THE TIME THAT I WAS IN AUSTINE SCHOOL, FINALLY NEW HAMPSHIRE DECIDED TO ESTABLISH A SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF. AND SO MY MOTHER WAS THRILLED BECAUSE THERE I COULD COMMUTE BACK AND FORTH TO HOME, BUT IN AUSTINE SCHOOL, I REALLY HAD TO STAY AND I COULDN'T COME HOME ON THE WEEKENDS. I ONLY GOT HOME AT CHRISTMAS. SO MY FAMILY MADE THE DETERMINATION THAT I'D BE MOVED TO NEW HAMPSHIRE AND I COULD COME HOME REGULARLY. NOW, THE NEW HAMPSHIRE SCHOOL WAS AN ORAL SCHOOL. HMM. NOW, VERMONT USED AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE, AND WITH MY DEAF FRIENDS I COMMUNICATED EASILY. AND THAT WAS THE NORMAL WORLD TO ME. OF COURSE I CAUSED TROUBLE, YEAH, THAT'S TRUE, BUT IT WAS STILL A NORMAL WORLD. WHEN I GOT INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE, THIS WAS ALL I SAW, YOU KNOW. AS SOON AS I USED SIGN LANGUAGE, I WAS IMMEDIATELY THE FOCUS OF ATTENTION. I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE CLASSROOM. I WENT AND SAT DOWN AND I GOT A NEW TEACHER. YOU KNOW, IT WAS A NEW TEACHER AND A NEW STUDENT ALIKE. SO SHE LOOKED AT US AND, YOU KNOW, USED HER BEST LIP READING SKILLS. AND I RAISED MY HAND AND SAID, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU." AND I JUST KEPT SAYING, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU." AND I STARTED TO REALLY DO A SLOW BURN, AND EVENTUALLY THAT TURNED IN A FULL-FLEDGED TANTRUM. I HAD NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE, BUT I PUSHED THE TABLES OVER, AND I JUMPED ON TOP OF THE TABLES, AND THE TEACHER FREAKED OUT, CAME OVER AND GRABBED ME, AND THREW ME OUT IN THE HALL, AND THEN STARTED SIGNING AT ME. AND I LOOKED AT THEM AND I SAID, "YOU KNOW SIGN LANGUAGE?" AND THEY SAID, "SHH. THIS IS A SECRET BETWEEN YOU AND ME. "IN CLASS, YOU KNOW, THIS IS A NORMAL SCHOOL. "WE HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES, "BUT ONE ON ONE, YOU AND I CAN SIGN TO EACH OTHER, BUT YOU HAVE TO KEEP IT A SECRET. AHH, PBBLT. AS SOON AS I KNEW THAT, SHE HAD MY FULL TRUST. UNTIL THAT POINT, I HAD NEVER TRUSTED AN INSTRUCTOR, BUT NOW FINALLY I FOUND ONE THAT I FELT THAT I COULD REALLY DEAL WITH. AND AFTER THAT, I WOULD ASK THE TEACHER QUESTIONS, AND I BECAME A RADICALLY DIFFERENT STUDENT, AND MY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS DWINDLED TO A MINIMUM. I FELT THAT THE OTHER TEACHERS BEFORE HER WERE LOUSY. YOU KNOW, FOR EXAMPLE, WITH THE SOCIAL STUDIES BOOK, WE WOULD LOOK AT MAPS AND PLANTS, YOU KNOW, THE SCIENCE BOOKS. YOU KNOW ALL THE OTHER TEACHERS. WELL, WE WOULD SIT IN CLASS WITH THE HEADPHONES ON AND THE TEACHER WOULD OPEN HER BOOK AND START READING ALL OF THIS STUFF AND FIX HER BRA STRAP AS SHE WAS READING. AND I WOULD JUST SIT THERE AND STUDY HER. YOU KNOW, THE TEACHER'S CLOTHING. SHE HAD OLD-FASHIONED CLOTHES WITH POLKA DOTS AND BIG EARRINGS AND MOLES. AND I CAN TELL YOU EVERY SINGLE LITTLE, TINY FEATURE OF THIS TEACHER, LET ME TELL YOU. YOU KNOW, AND I'D JUST SIT THERE AND COULDN'T WAIT FOR CLASS TO BE OVER SO I COULD GET OUT OF THERE. SO... EVERY DAY WAS THE SAME KIND OF EXPERIENCE. SHE'D READ THE BOOK AND WE'D HAVE ON THE HEADPHONES. YOU KNOW, THE OTHER TEACHERS DIDN'T KNOW MUCH OF ANYTHING ABOUT SIGN. THEY WOULD BE VERY LAX, AND THEY'D BE-- YOU KNOW, I WOULD GET ENTIRELY OUT OF CONTROL AND BECOME THE CLASS CLOWN AND, YOU KNOW, THE KIND OF THAT HAPPENS, BUT THAT ONE TEACHER REALLY EARNED MY RESPECT AND REALLY INFLUENCED MY LIFE FROM THEN ON. ANOTHER CLASS HELPED ME BECOME A LINGUIST. I IMAGINE AT THE AGE OF 12 AND 13, I WAS ALREADY A LINGUIST. LET ME EXPLAIN THIS. YOU KNOW, OF COURSE I HAD SPEECH READING AND INSTRUCTIONAL ALL THE TIME GROWING UP, BUT AT THIS AGE, 12 OR 13, THEY HANDED US OUT NOTEBOOKS WITH WHITE PAPER IN THEM. AND WE DIDN'T KNOW AT ALL WHAT THESE ARE FOR, BUT THEN THEY SHOWED US ALL OF THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET. LET'S START WITH "B." AND IT SHOWED HOW YOU USE YOUR VOICE TO MAKE THAT SOUND. AND UNTIL THAT POINT, I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A "B" AND A "P," LIKE THAT ONE USED A VOICE AND ONE DIDN'T. OH, I THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS FASCINATING. "B" USED YOUR VOICE AND "P" DIDN'T. AND SO WE'D DRAW DIAGRAMS AND DRAW THE MOUTH, MAKING ALL OF THESE LITTLE SHAPES AND DRAW THE TONGUE COMING IN AND OUT OF VARIOUS CONSTRUCTIONS THAT YOU HAD TO MANIPULATE YOUR VOICE BOX INTO. AND THEN I WOULD MAKE "P" USING THE SAME DRAWING, BUT I WOULD COLOR IT BLUE BECAUSE THEN THERE WAS NO VOICE USED. SO BLUE MEANT VOICELESS. AND I WOULD CONSTRUCT THESE SENTENCES LIKE, "BOB IS" SOMETHING, SO IT'S "B," YOU KNOW, USE THE RED AND MAKE THIS VERY CLEARLY VOICE. AND BOY, I FEEL LIKE I REALLY BECAME A LINGUIST FROM A VERY EARLY AGE. I COULD DEMONSTRATE "A" THROUGH "Z," WHAT EVERYTHING LOOKED LIKE AND ALSO THE VOWELS WITH "A," "E," "I," "O," AND "U." I REALLY REMEMBER WORKING ON THOSE. SO I HAD THIS VERY THICK NOTEBOOK. AND NOW THAT I'M A LINGUIST, I REALLY DO THANK HER. OF COURSE, THAT PARTICULAR COURSE I HAPPENED TO FAIL, BUT, OH, WELL. THE REASON I FAILED WAS BECAUSE OF 4H. I WAS A MEMBER OF THE 4H CLUB, AND AS WERE MANY DEAF STUDENTS WITHIN OUR SCHOOL. WE USE TO HAVE WONDERFUL CONVERSATIONS AND LEARN HOW TO TIE KNOTS AND ROPES AND GO SEE VARIOUS FARM ANIMALS. AND I REALLY LOVED 4H. WELL, AT ONE POINT, THEY SENT ALL OF US TO A BIG CONVENTION, AND I SAID, "OH, OF COURSE I WANT TO GO." I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS, BUT IT GOT US OUT OF SCHOOL, YOU KNOW, SO I GOT TO GO TO THIS CONVENTION. AND THEY SAID, "NOW, YOU HAVE TO PRESENT SOMETHING IN ORDER TO DO THIS." SO I THOUGHT, OH, PHOTOGRAPHS WOULD BE A REAL GOOD THING FOR ME TO DO. WELL, NOT ACTUALLY PHOTOGRAPHS, BUT I MADE PICTURES OF LIKE FROM A CHICKEN'S EYE VIEW, A BIRD'S EYE VIEW, OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING. SO I'D MAKE VARIOUS PICTURES COMPARING THE WAY WE SEE. YOU KNOW, AND I WAS ABOUT 13, AND I WAS SO INCREDIBLY PROUD OF MY PROJECT. YOU KNOW, I DID A LOT OF WORK ON IT. AND THE TEACHER SAID, "OH, THIS IS GREAT. "NOW YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE PRESENTING THIS WITH YOUR SPEECH." I SAID, "TALK? NO, I CAN'T DO THAT." SHE SAID, "OH, YEAH, YOU'VE GOT REALLY GOOD SPEECH SKILLS." AND AT THAT POINT, I SAID, "UH-OH, I'M STUCK." AND I JUST DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE PROJECT, AND I REALLY GOT OVERWORKED ABOUT IT. AND I SAID, "I REALLY CAN'T USE MY SPEECH." WELL, THE TWO OF US STRUGGLED ON AND ON, AND I KEPT COMPLAINING THAT I COULDN'T DO IT. AND SO, IT WAS 4 PAGES THAT SHE WANTED ME TO WRITE OUT. AND I THOUGHT THAT, YOU KNOW-- WE THOUGHT THAT WE COULD COPY IT BIG. SO WHAT I WOULD DO IS I WOULD WRITE IT OUT ON THE BOARD, AND THEN FOLLOW ALONG AND TRY TO WRITE IT THAT WAY. WELL, I JUST COULDN'T DO IT, BUT I REALLY FELT TRAPPED IN THE SITUATION AT THIS POINT. SO I PRACTICED AND PRACTICED. 3 OR 4 DIFFERENT TEACHERS LISTENED TO MY VOICE AND CAME TO HELP ME PRACTICE. SO IT WAS TIME TO GO TO THE CONVENTION. AND, UH, I GOT UP THERE AND I WAS THE SAME AGE AS ALL THESE OTHER KIDS, AND THEY WERE ALL HEARING. AND AT THAT POINT, YOU KNOW, WELL, BEFORE THAT, IT WAS ALL THE LADIES IN THE LAB WHO SAID, "OH, HOW GOOD. YOUR VOICE IS SO NICE." YOU KNOW, THAT WAS MY ONLY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE RELATED TO MY VOICE. BUT AT THIS POINT, I REALIZED THAT ALL OF THESE PEOPLE WERE 12, 13, 14, AND THEY WERE THE SAME AGE AS ME. AND I GOT UP ON STAGE AND I PUT UP MY CARDS AND I PUT MY PICTURES UP FRONT AND I STARTED TO TRY TO SAY THIS, AND THE EXPRESSIONS OF THE KIDS' FACES WAS TERRIBLE. THEY WERE LOOKING AT EACH OTHER AND SAID, "WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT?" AND AT THAT POINT, I KNEW IMMEDIATELY THAT THE TEACHERS HAD LIED. YOU KNOW, AND THEY KEPT SAYING TO ME, "NOW LIFT UP YOUR CHIN," AND I KEPT TRYING TO TALK, AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE LOOKED WORSE AND WORSE, AND I THINK THAT I WAS SCREAMING BY THE TIME WE GOT FINISHED. AND I THINK THE WHOLE DREADED EXPERIENCE LAST ABOUT 15 MINUTES, AND I WAS SICK WHEN I GOT FINISHED WITH IT. I GOT OFF THE STAGE AND PEOPLE JUST LOOKED AT ME IN A MANNER THAT INDICATED THAT THEY REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH ME. SO PRETTY SOON AWARDS WERE UP. AND I GOT A BLUE RIBBON FOR FIRST PLACE. IMAGINE THAT. NOW I UNDERSTAND THE REASON THAT I GOT IT, BUT BACK THEN, I THOUGHT IT CAN'T BE BECAUSE OF MY SPEECH, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW-- AND THEN I STARTED WORKING THROUGH A LOT OF DIFFICULT CONCEPTS-- THE FACT THAT I WAS DEAF. I SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT THEY'D GIVEN ME THE BLUE RIBBON BECAUSE THEY FELT SORRY FOR ME. AND THAT WAS THE FIRST EXPERIENCE THAT REALLY OPENED MY EYES TO COMMUNICATION ISSUES LIKE THAT. BUT I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THIS BLUE RIBBON, SO I JUST TOSSED IT OUT, AND THEN WENT BACK TO SCHOOL, AND THE SPEECH TEACHER STARTED ENCOURAGING ME TO USE MY VOICE, AND I JUST WOULDN'T, AND I HAVEN'T USED MY VOICE TO THIS DAY. MY VOICE TURNED OFF RIGHT AT THAT POINT. OK, AS I GOT A LITTLE OLDER, HMM, I FELT THAT I WANTED TO TEACH. AND IN THE SUMMERS, WHEN I WAS HOME, MY FATHER WOULD FINISH WORK AND HE'S COME HOME AND SPRAWL OUT ON THE SOFA, AND THAT'S ALL THAT I SAW ALL THE TIME. NOW, HE WORKED IN A FACTORY AND HE WAS ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTED WHEN HE FINISHED WORK, AND I FELT THAT I DIDN'T WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT WHEN I FINISHED WORK AS I GOT OLDER. BUT AGAIN, I NEED TO GO BACK TO THAT ONE TEACHER WHO REALLY STRONGLY INFLUENCED ME, AND THAT WAS REALLY WHERE I GOT THE IDEA THAT I WANTED TO BECOME A TEACHER. NOW, I GRADUATED FROM THE SCHOOL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, AND THEN TRANSFERRED BACK TO THE AUSTINE SCHOOL. AND LIFE WAS PRETTY MISERABLE. I CAME BACK AND I SAID, "HI, I'M YOUR OLD FRIEND, AND I WAS YOUR FRIEND WAY BACK THEN." AND EVERYBODY DID A DOUBLE TAKE AND TOOK RIGHT AWAY FROM ME. I THOUGHT, DID I SAY SOMETHING WRONG? AND FOR A WEEK, EVERYONE AVOIDED ME. I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHY. AND THEN WE CAME--I HAD TO TAKE AN ENGLISH TEST-- THIS WAS MANDATORY EVERY FALL-- TO SEE WHETHER OUR SKILLS HAD IMPROVED OR GONE DOWN DURING THE SUMMER. SO WE FINISH THIS TEST, AND IT CAME TIME FOR ALL OF US TO BE ASSIGNED TO DIFFERENT GROUPINGS. AND THE TEACHER ANNOUNCED THAT, YOU KNOW, "ALL OF YOU CAN MAKE FUN OF NEW HAMPSHIRE NOW "BECAUSE YOU VERMONT STUDENTS ALL DID EXCELLENTLY, BUT OUR ONE"-- OH. "YOU ALL MAKE FUN OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, BUT REALLY, THE STUDENT FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE DID THE BEST." AND THEY ANNOUNCED MY NAME, AND THEY SAID, "NO, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, YOU WERE A REAL PAIN." AND I SAID, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" AND THEY STARTED TELLING ME SOME OF THE THINGS THEY REMEMBERED ME DOING. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I USED TO PINCH PEOPLE. YOU KNOW, MY FRIENDS, I'D JUST COME UP AND PINCH THEM, AND THEY'D GET REALLY UPSET. I DID THIS ALL THE TIME, BUT HONEST TO GOD, I DON'T REMEMBER EVER DOING THAT. THAT WAS ONE OF THE REASONS EVERYBODY STAYED AWAY FROM ME WHEN I FIRST GOT BACK, BUT THEN I SUDDENLY UNDERSTOOD WHY. ANOTHER THING THAT THEY TOLD ME THAT THEY REMEMBERED ABOUT ME WAS THAT I WAS ALWAYS MISCHIEVOUS AND IN TROUBLE. AND THEY RECALLED MANY INTERESTING EPISODES, BUT I COULDN'T REMEMBER ANY OF THOSE THINGS. AND SUDDENLY I REALIZED IT WAS BECAUSE EMOTIONALLY I WAS BLOCKING THAT PERIOD OF MY LIFE. AND THAT MEANT I MUST-- AS I LOOK BACK NOW, I MUST HAVE HAD SOME REALLY SERIOUS PROBLEMS. WELL, NOW, OF COURSE, I'M FINE AND HERE I AM UP ON THE STAGE, BUT THEY REALIZED THAT I HAD GROWN UP A LOT WHEN I CAME BACK TO THE AUSTINE SCHOOL. AND I REGAINED SOME OF MY OLD FRIENDS, AND ACTUALLY, I BECAME PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT COUNCIL AND I WAS INVOLVED IN MANY KIND OF SPORTS-- BASKETBALL, FOR EXAMPLE. IN HIGH SCHOOL, LIFE WAS REALLY WONDERFUL. IT'S INTERESTING THAT I SCORED SO HIGHLY IN ENGLISH BECAUSE IT WAS ALL BASED ON WRITING. YOU KNOW, MY WRITING SCORES WERE WONDERFUL, BUT MY READING SCORES WERE MISERABLE. THEY WERE AT THE OPPOSITE END OF THE SPECTRUM. AND SO THE TEACHERS KEPT ENCOURAGING ME TO READ, BUT, SEE, I WAS VERY GOOD MEMORIZING SENTENCES, WHICH MEANT I COULD WRITE VERY WELL, BUT I DIDN'T HAVE THAT SORT OF NATURAL EVERYDAY FACILITY WITH THE LANGUAGE TO BE ABLE TO USE IT TO COMMUNICATE. I FELT THAT THE SENTENCES WERE JUST SORT OF JUST VERY CLEARLY ACCESSIBLE TO ME. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'RE FAMILIAR WITH THE FITZGERALD KEY. IT WAS A METHOD TO TEACH READING TO DEAF STUDENTS A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, BUT LIKE THE FIRST WORD WOULD BE "WHAT," THE SECOND WORD WOULD BE A VERB. SO IT WAS VERY SIMPLE. LIKE, ONE WOULD BE A NOUN, VERB, AND THEN WE'D HAVE WHY, AND THEN A PHRASE-- ANOTHER SEGMENT THAT WOULD BE HOW OFTEN. AND CERTAIN--LIKE ONE AREA WOULD BE YELLOW. AND, YOU KNOW, AS I LOOKED UP, I WOULD BE ABLE TO WRITE THINGS AND BE ABLE TO PUT THEM TOGETHER BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL COLOR CODED. SO I'D BE ABLE TO MANIPULATE SENTENCES THAT WAY. SO WRITING SENTENCES WAS A SNAP. AND THE TEACHERS THOUGHT I COULD-- I UNDERSTOOD WHAT I WAS DOING, BUT I WAS JUST USING THIS KEY. AND REALLY MY READING WASN'T ANYWHERE NEAR THE LEVEL OF MY WRITING SKILLS. AND SO, A TEACHER FINALLY WORKED WITH ME LONG ENOUGH TO BRING UP MY SKILLS IN READING TO THAT POINT. ALSO RELATED TO READING, IF I READ A SENTENCE, FOR EXAMPLE, "HE WAS DEAD," I WOULD SIGN "HE KILLED," YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT, AND THEN I'D ALWAYS BE WRONG, AND THEN I'D GET ANGRY. AND I'D SAY, YOU KNOW, "HE WAS KILLED." YOU KNOW, AND THEY-- YOU'D HAVE TO SAY, "SOMEONE KILLED HIM." OH, BUT THEN IT TOOK SOMEBODY WHO WAS DEAF WHO REALLY UNDERSTOOD ENGLISH TO EXPLAIN IT TO ME BECAUSE I WASN'T GETTING IT FROM THE HEARING TEACHER. AND ACTUALLY, I LEARNED ENGLISH THROUGH MY FRIEND WHO TUTORED ME INSTEAD OF FROM THE TEACHER DIRECTLY. OK. NOW I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THE JUNIOR NAD EXPERIENCE THAT I HAD. I WAS CHOSEN TO GO TO A CONFERENCE IN DC IN 1970, I THINK. SO I WENT TO GALLAUDET AND WAS ON THAT CAMPUS FOR THE FIRST TIME. AND AT THAT POINT, I CERTAINLY DECIDED I WAS GOING TO GO TO GALLAUDET CERTAINLY WHEN I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. AND I KNEW SOME FRIENDS FROM MAINE AND MASSACHUSETTS AND NEW HAMPSHIRE AND VERMONT WHO ATTENDED GALLAUDET. AND I MET ONE FRIEND FROM MAINE WHEN I WENT TO VISIT THE CAMPUS, AND I WAS TALKING TO HIM. AND HE JUST GAVE ME A FUNNY LOOK AND THEN LAUGHED. I THOUGHT, "GOSH, HE WAS PRETTY NEAT BEFORE. NOW ALL THE SUDDEN, HE'S PRETTY ARROGANT." AND THEN I THOUGHT, "YOU MEAN IF I GO TO GALLAUDET, I'M GONNA BECOME ARROGANT LIKE THAT?" I CERTAINLY DIDN'T WANT TO. AND THEN I SAW SOME OTHER FRIENDS WHO ARE ALL INCREDIBLY IMPRESSED WITH THEMSELVES, AND I THOUGHT GALLAUDET HAD DONE THIS TO THEM. SO MY OPINION IMMEDIATELY CHANGED. AND THEN I THOUGHT, "WELL, I'M NOT GONNA GO TO GALLAUDET, EVEN IF THEY FORCE ME." THEN I HEARD ABOUT NTID. I FIGURED, WELL, NTID's FAIRLY NEW, THAT PROBLEM CAN'T BE THERE YET. SO I FOUND OUT THAT NTID AND GALLAUDET BOTH HAD PROBLEMS. THEY WERE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER, BUT THEY BOTH HAD THEM. SO I ENTERED NTID. WELL, ACTUALLY, LET ME GO BACK. IN HIGH SCHOOL, AS I TOLD YOU, I WAS INVOLVED WITH SPORTS AND I WAS INVOLVED IN ACTIVITIES. AND WHEN I ARRIVED AT NTID, I SUDDENLY BECAME VERY QUIET. THERE WERE ONLY ABOUT 200 STUDENTS AT NTID AT THAT POINT. NOW THERE ARE SOMETHING LIKE A THOUSAND. OH, 1,300. AT MY TIME THERE WERE 200 TO 250. AND I FELT EXTREMELY IN THE MINORITY. AND NTID REQUIRED SPEECH TRAINING AT THAT TIME. IT WAS REQUIRED. AND I SAID, "I WENT THROUGH SPEECH TRAINING "ALL OF MY LIFE. I AM NOT GONNA GO TO CLASS." THIS WAS A ONE-ON-ONE EXPERIENCE. BUT I DID GO MEET THE TEACHER, AND THEY EXPLAINED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT IT. AND THEN I LEFT AND WOULDN'T GO BACK. THEY CALLED ME AGAIN AND AGAIN, AND THEY GAVE ME AN "F" AND SAID I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO GRADUATE, BUT EVERY LETTER I GOT WENT INTO THE TRASH. SO EVENTUALLY I WENT TO TALK TO A COUNSELOR. OH, AND THEY SAID, "WELL, WHY HAVEN'T YOU COME TO SEE ME? ARE YOU HAVING PROBLEMS?" AND I REALLY FELT OVERWHELMED. I THOUGHT THAT EVERYONE WAS ON MY BACK AND REALLY BUTTING INTO MY BUSINESS A LITTLE BIT MORE THAN I WANTED. THE SPEECH TEACHER AND THE COUNSELOR-- I CAN'T REMEMBER. MAYBE THE TWO OF THEM GOT TOGETHER TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH ME, BUT FINALLY THE COUNSELOR SAID, "WHY DON'T YOU WRITE DOWN HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT NTID." I DIDN'T WANT TO WASTE MY TIME WITH THAT. AND THEY SAID, "NO, YOU CAN USE ART TO EXPRESS THIS." I SAID, "OH, WELL, THAT'S AN INTERESTING CHALLENGE TO EXPRESS MY FEELINGS ABOUT NTID THROUGH ART." LATER, WHEN I WAS EATING LUNCH, THE SPEECH TEACHER CAME UP TO ME AND SAID, "I WANT TO SEE YOU." AND I WAS REALLY SICK OF THIS. I FELT LIKE THEY WERE CHASING ME AT THIS POINT. BUT I WENT TO MEET WITH HIM. AND THE SPEECH TEACHER SAID, "PLEASE, I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOU FAIL. "I WANT YOU TO GRADUATE. WHY DON'T YOU JUST WORK WITH ME?" AND I HAD THE TYPE OF ATTITUDE WHERE I JUST TOLD THEM I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF SPEECH, I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF LIPREADING ENTIRELY. WELL, IF YOU JUST-- THEY SAID-- SHE FINALLY SAID, "IF YOU WILL JUST MAKE A SPEECH SOUND, I WILL GIVE YOU AN A." SO I MADE A SOUND AND SHE SAID, "OK, I'LL GIVE YOU AN A." I FELT LIKE I'D BRIBED HER. I FELT TERRIBLE. AND... ON THE SURFACE, I THOUGHT THAT I MIGHT HAVE FELT REALLY WONDERFUL ABOUT THAT, BUT REALLY I DIDN'T FEEL VERY GOOD ABOUT IT AT ALL. NOW BACK TO THE COUNSELOR. WHEN I WAS WORKING AT THIS ART PROJECT, I DREW A FISH IN A BOWL WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE AROUND THIS BOWL, AND THE FISH HAD A HEARING AID. AND... I SAID THAT THIS IS HOW I FEEL. I FEEL LIKE I'M A FISH BOWL. YOU WANT ME TO TALK. YOU WANT ME TO DO THINGS YOUR WAY. AND YOU'RE ALL STANDING AROUND LOOKING AT ME. I REMEMBER DRAWING THIS. AND I DON'T KNOW WHERE THIS PIECE OF ARTWORK WENT. I HOPE IT'S STILL HERE SOME PLACE, BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE IT WENT. BUT I DID PRESENT IT TO THE COUNSELOR. AS TIME WENT ALONG IN SCHOOL, I WASN'T INVOLVED A LOT IN SPORTS. I GOT A LOT OF GOOD GRADES. I REALLY HAD NO PROBLEM STUDYING AT ALL AT NTID. WHEN I GRADUATED AND GOT A JOB-- WAIT A MINUTE. LET ME STEP BACK A BIT. I WAS ON THE MAJOR PHOTOGRAPHY. AND I THOUGHT I WOULD GO AROUND AND TAKE PICTURES AND PRODUCE THEM AND DEVELOP THEM, AND THEY WOULD BE MY ART, MY ARTWORK, IS WHAT I HAD IN MIND. THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED AT ALL. ACTUALLY, I WAS WORKING IN A PROCESS COMPANY. SOMEBODY ELSE WOULD TAKE THE PICTURE, I WOULD BE GIVEN THE ROLL, TAKE OFF--IN THE DARKROOM, TAKE OFF THE METAL PART, DEVELOP IT IN THE MACHINE, DIP IT IN. AFTER IT WAS DRY, I'D CUT ALL THE NEGATIVES AND HAND IT OFF TO THE NEXT PERSON. I WAS IN THE PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT, IN PRINTING. ALSO, I WOULD BE INVOLVED IN THE PRINTING PROCESS SOMETIMES. I WOULD ALSO DEVELOP THE PICTURES AND PRODUCE THEM, THEN HAND THEM BACK OFF TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER. THIS WAS MY JOB. THAT IS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND AT ALL. AND I JUST STRUGGLE WITH THE TEACHERS. "NO, I WANT TO TAKE PICTURES." AND THEY WOULD SAY, "OH, YOU SHOULD TRY "TO MAYBE GO INTO RIT, "CROSS REGISTER OVER THERE. THEY'RE VERY CREATIVE, CREATIVE ARTS PHOTOGRAPHY." AND I WENT OVER THERE AND, OH, IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. THAT'S WHAT I WANTED TO DO. I TALKED WITH MY TEACHERS ABOUT THAT. THEY SAID, "WELL, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT. "YOU'RE NOT REALLY READY TO GO INTO RIT BECAUSE OF ALL OF THESE REASONS." THEY WERE VERY NEGATIVE ABOUT IT. THEY SAID I CAN'T, CAN'T, CAN'T CAN'T DO IT. AND I SAID, "BUT THAT'S WHAT I WANT." THEY SAID, "WELL, OVR MIGHT NOT SUPPORT YOU. MAYBE YOU'LL HAVE TO LEAVE." I THOUGHT, WELL, I CAN'T JUST LEAVE BECAUSE MY PARENTS WOULDN'T APPROVE OF THAT CERTAINLY. SO I STUCK WITH IT GRADUATED HERE AT NTID AND GOT A PRODUCTION JOB IN PHOTOGRAPHY. NTID WAS VERY GOOD AT HELPING ME FIND A JOB AFTER GRADUATION. I WORKED IN BOSTON. MY CAREER COUNSELORS CALLED UP AND GOT ME A JOB RIGHT AWAY. HE WAS VERY GOOD ABOUT THAT. YOU KNOW, 95% OF THE GRADUATES GET JOBS HERE. IT'S REALLY VERY GOOD REPUTATION HERE AT NTID, AND IT'S TRUE. AND AT THAT TIME, I HAD NO PROBLEM GETTING A JOB WITH THE HELP OF NTID. I WORKED FOR THE POLAROID COMPANY-- INSTAMATIC POLAROID COMPANY. AND I WORKED IN THE DARKROOM WITH THE MACHINES DEVELOPING FILMS. AND I THOUGHT, "THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT TO DO FOR MY FUTURE AT ALL." AND I THOUGHT, "WHAT ARE MY DREAMS?" YOU KNOW. "WHAT AM I GONNA DO IN MY FUTURE? "I'M CERTAINLY NOT GONNA BE WORKING WITH THESE CHEMICALS ALL THE TIME." AT THAT TIME, THE ENERGY CRISIS HIT. I THINK IT WAS IN 1973 OR '74, RIGHT AROUND THERE. AND NEW ENGLAND WAS REALLY HIT BAD WITH THE ENERGY CRISIS. IT REALLY HAD PROBLEMS WITH GASOLINE AND ELECTRICITY, EVERYTHING. AND THERE WERE LOTS OF LAYOFFS IN NEW ENGLAND, AND I WAS ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT GOT LAID OFF. I HAD NO JOB. ONE OF MY FRIENDS WAS WORKING IN NEVADA AT THAT TIME. AND HE WORKED WITH A CHIMP, TEACHING HIM SIGN LANGUAGE AND TOLD ME A JOB THAT I COULD TEACH SIGN LANGUAGE AS WELL AS TAKE PICTURES COMBINATION KIND OF A JOB. AND THE JOB WAS OPEN. THEY CONTACTED ME, I APPLIED, AND GOT THAT JOB IN NEVADA. ALSO AT THAT TIME, I WANT TO MENTION A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW I BECAME A POET. I TOLD YOU ABOUT A POET. MM-HMM. WHEN I WAS 12 OR 13 IN ONE OF MY ENGLISH CLASSES, MY TEACHER GAVE US ALL A POEM. AND I READ THAT, I THOUGHT, "OH, THAT'S QUITE AN INTERESTING POEM." I REALLY LIKED IT. I TRIED TO TOY WITH WRITING POETRY MYSELF. I THOUGHT I WAS QUITE GOOD. THE TEACHERS, "EH, THAT'S FINE." I DIDN'T GET THE ENCOURAGEMENT I EXPECTED AT ALL, SO I JUST KIND OF DROPPED IT. AT NTID, I FELT VERY ISOLATED AND FELT INSPIRED AGAIN TO TRY TO EXPRESS MYSELF IN POETRY. AND I TRIED TO WRITE POETRY AND DIDN'T FEEL SUCCESSFUL WITH IT, BUT TRIED TO PLAY WITH IT WITH SIGN LANGUAGE, WITH AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE, AND REALLY STARTED TO EXPRESS MYSELF IN THAT MANNER. AND I WOULD JUST WRITE DOWN THE GLOSSES IN ENGLISH ON PAPER SO THAT I COULD REMEMBER IT. I NEVER TOLD ANYBODY ABOUT THAT. I JUST KEPT THAT TO MYSELF. NOW BACK TO MOVING TO NEVADA... WITH MY NEW JOB TEACHING THE CHIMP AND ALSO TAKING PICTURES THERE. I WAS REALLY STRUCK AGAIN WITH THE TERM "ASL." PEOPLE WERE DEBATING THE ISSUE-- WHAT IS ASL AND WHAT THE VALUE OF IT WAS. AND I THOUGHT, "WHAT IS ASL?" I DIDN'T KNOW. AND A FRIEND OF MINE STARTED TELLING ME ABOUT, "OH, ASL IS WONDERFUL. YOU NEED TO SUPPORT IT. IT'S A LANGUAGE IN ITSELF." I THOUGHT, "OH, HOW RIDICULOUS." I STARTED TO DISCOVER, OH, MY GOODNESS, IT IS A LANGUAGE. IT REALLY STARTED TO GIVE ME AN IDEA OF MY OWN IDENTITY AND MY OWN CULTURE. AND THE CHIMP PROJECT, REALLY, THERE WERE A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH THAT. I QUIT THAT JOB AND WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA IN THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM AND GOT A BACHELOR'S DEGREE. I WAS THE ONLY DEAF PERSON IN THAT PROGRAM. I WAS REALLY INTO THAT MAJOR. WHEN I GRADUATED, I REALIZED THAT ALL THROUGH MY UPBRINGING... I THOUGHT I WAS VERY BRIGHT, BUT PEOPLE HAD SUCH LOW EXPECTATIONS. I WOULD JUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT. AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, I WAS FORCED TO STUDY DILIGENTLY EVERY NIGHT, WEEKENDS, FOR TWO YEARS UNTIL I MADE IT, UNTIL I GRADUATED. I WISH I HAD HAD THAT EXPERIENCE ALL THROUGH MY EDUCATION SO THAT IT WASN'T SUCH A SHOCK. I REALLY MISSED A LOT, REALLY. I WAS AWAKENED TO THAT REALIZATION AFTER I GOT INTO THAT PROGRAM IN NEVADA. I REALIZED DEAF EDUCATION IS REALLY NOT THAT SUCCESSFUL. THAT WAS ONE OF THE IMPRESSIONS I WANTED TO EXPRESS. SOME OF MY HEARING FRIENDS I HAD SUPPORTED ME. I TALKED ABOUT ASL. ONE OF MY HEARING FRIENDS SUPPORTED ME, BUT THEN HE GOT MARRIED. AND I MUST SAY THAT FOR A LONG TIME, I HATED HEARING PEOPLE, JUST DESPISED THEM. I COULDN'T STAND--I SAW A HEARING PERSON, I WOULD TRY TO GET ANYWHERE AWAY FROM THEM. IT WAS JUST TOO MUCH FOR ME. I DIDN'T WANT TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM. I WOULD AVOID THEM IN MANNER I POSSIBLY COULD. YOU KNOW, JUST TRY AND BE BRIEF AS I COULD. I REALIZED AS I WAS GROWING UP, THEY TOLD ME SO MANY THINGS AND I JUST KIND OF AGREED WITH THEM. AND I THOUGHT, "OH, WE'RE ALL THE SAME." ACTUALLY, WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, I THOUGHT THAT HEARING PEOPLE WERE JUST SMARTER THAN I WAS, BUT I REALIZED WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT. AND I WANT TO THANK-- I REALLY FEEL THANKFUL TO MY FRIEND AND HIS WIFE FOR ENCOURAGING ME AND HELPING ME UNDERSTAND THAT, THAT WE'RE ALL THE SAME. SOMEONE TOLD ME I SHOULD TEACH ASL TO HEARING PEOPLE. I THOUGHT, NO, BECAUSE THE HEARING PEOPLE ARE SO MUCH SMARTER THAN ME AND EVERYTHING, NO. SO LET'S STILL ENCOURAGE ME TO DO THAT. AND THEN I TRIED TO DO IT, I WAS WILLING TO-- I WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT TEACHING THIS THE FIRST TIME I TAUGHT THE ABCs, FINGERSPELLING. AS WE WENT ALONG, I TAUGHT THEM DIFFERENT VOCABULARY-- BALL AND BOAT. I MEAN, I WAS SO AWKWARD ABOUT TEACHING IT. HERE ARE THESE NEW HEARING PEOPLE TRYING TO LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE. AS SOON AS I STARTED TEACHING ASL, I REALLY GOT INTO THAT. I REALLY STARTED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I WAS TEACHING AND HOW I SOCIALIZED WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I REALLY STARTED TO UNDERSTAND LANGUAGE AND ASL AS I STARTED TO TEACH IT. AS I GOT INTO THAT PARTICULAR OCCUPATION, I ALSO STARTED WORKING AT VR PART TIME. YOU KNOW, VR, OVR PEOPLE. ANYWAY, I PUT UP WITH THAT KIND OF JOB FOR A LITTLE WHILE, JUST TO EARN EXTRA MONEY. AND ONE TIME AT A PARTY-- I HAD TO GO TO THIS OFFICE PARTY. AND I MET ONE OF THE EXECUTIVE-- OR ONE OF THE ADMINISTRATORS OF OVR. HE WAS ONE OF THE STATE EXECUTIVES, SOMEONE FROM THE ADMINISTRATION FROM THE STATE. IT WAS A WOMAN. AND SHE STARTED TO SIGN TO ME AND VOICE A LITTLE BIT. SHE SAID, "WHY DON'T YOU USE YOUR VOICE, PLEASE?" SHE ASKED ME TO USE MY VOICE. I ALMOST AGREED TO DO SO UNTIL I REALIZED, WHY WOULD I DO SUCH A THING? I ALMOST STARTED TO, AND I HAD THIS LITTLE INCLINATION. AND I THOUGHT NO. I HAD THIS AWFUL INTERNAL STRUGGLE ABOUT IT. SHE SAID, "YOU SHOULD USE YOUR VOICE." AND I THOUGHT, NO, I AM DEAF. I WILL NOT USE MY VOICE. I THOUGHT, WELL, I DON'T WANT TO-- HOW REBELLIOUS SHOULD I BE ABOUT THIS? I DECIDED TO QUIT OVR, AND I QUIT THAT JOB RIGHT AFTER THAT. AND I DECIDED TO FOCUS ON TEACHING ASL. NOW, THAT WOMAN, REMEMBER HER BECAUSE I WILL MENTION HER AGAIN A LITTLE BIT LATER. THE ASL PROGRAM I WAS TEACHING, IT REALLY STARTED TO EXPAND. AND AS IT WAS GROWING, I WAS DEFINITELY GROWING AS WELL. I WAS REALLY SURPRISED. I WENT TO A WORKSHOP... NCPTSLI. IT'S A BIG WORD FOR THE NATIONAL CONSORTIUM FOR SIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTORS. AND THIS WAS HELD IN TENNESSEE IN 1980. AND I WANTED TO LEARN HOW TO BE ABLE TO TEACH ASL, SO I WENT TO THIS CONSORTIUM. OH, IT HAD SUCH AN IMPACT ON ME. I LEARNED SO MANY THINGS. I LEARNED MORE ABOUT ASL, DEAF CULTURE, DEAF RIGHTS, SO MANY THINGS WHILE I WAS AT THAT CONSORTIUM. AND I STARTED TO HAVE A MUCH BETTER IDENTITY OF MY OWN AND SELF-ESTEEM. I MET ELLA MAE LENTZ. DO YOU KNOW ELLA? SHE'S FROM CALIFORNIA, AND SHE'S A WELL-KNOWN DEAF POET. SHE ANNOUNCED THAT SHE WAS AN ASL POET. [GASPS] I NEVER MET SOMEONE WHO WAS AN ASL POET. I HAD NEVER SHARED THAT I WAS A POET TO ANYONE ELSE. I MEAN, THIS HAD BEEN 9 YEARS THAT I HAD KEPT THAT QUIET. AND HERE WAS A PERSON WHO ANNOUNCED IT OUT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. I SAID, "YOU'RE A DEAF POET. IS THAT TRUE?" SAID, "WOULD YOU MIND SETTING UP A TIME TO MEET WITH ME? I WOULD LOVE TO TALK WITH YOU MORE ABOUT THAT," SO WE DID. AFTER WE HAD THAT DISCUSSION, I FELT SO GOOD. AND I ALSO TALKED WITH CAROL PATTON. SHE TOLD ME THAT THEY HAD A DEAF POETRY... THEY NEEDED A DEAF POET FOR A CONVENTION AND WOULD I BE WILLING TO PERFORM? AND I THOUGHT, "NO, I'M NOT GOING TO SHOW MY POETRY IN PUBLIC." THAT'S MY OWN PRIVATE... THAT'S SOMETHING THAT I KEEP IN PRIVATE. BUT ELLA ENCOURAGED ME TO DO THAT. AND I THOUGHT, "WHY SHOULD I DO THAT?" I KIND OF GOT AGGRAVATED WITH THE WHOLE THING. AND THEN ANOTHER PERSON ASKED ME, A PERSON FROM MASSACHUSETTS SAID, "I HEARD THAT YOU'RE A DEAF POET. WHY DON'T YOU PERFORM AT THIS CONVENTION?" FINALLY, AFTER THE THIRD PERSON HAD APPROACHED ME, I AGREED TO DO IT. I THOUGHT AFTER A WHILE, "WHY HAVE I AGREED TO DO THIS?" A FEW DAYS LATER, I WENT TO BOSTON-- SOMEBODY ASKED ME TO GO TO BOSTON FOR THE NATIONAL CONSORTIUM ON SIGN LANGUAGE. OH, WHAT IS THE ACRONYM? RESEARCH AND TEACHING TO GIVE A CONVENTION. THAT WAS IN 1980 AND HELD IN BOSTON, HELD IN MASSACHUSETTS. AND I WAS ASKED TO GIVE A PERFORMANCE. AND I SAID, "WHAT? ME? "IN FRONT OF A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE? I WOULD NEVER." I WOULD NEVER. I THOUGHT--I TRIED TO AVOID IT, TRIED TO MAKE UP ALL SORTS OF EXCUSES WHY I COULDN'T DO IT, BUT THEY WERE STILL PERSISTENT IN ASKING ME TO PERFORM THERE. AND THEN I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, I THOUGHT, "WELL, THESE 3 PEOPLE SEEM TO LIKE IT, SEEMED TO LIKE MY PERFORMANCE." I THOUGHT, "WHY SHOULDN'T I TAKE THAT STEP, TRY AND DO IT?" SO I AGREED. AND, OH, I SHOULD HAVE SAID NO. I CAN'T BELIEVE I WENT AHEAD WITH THIS. ANYWAY. AS THE TIME GOT CLOSER AND CLOSER FOR THE CONVENTION, I GOT MORE AND MORE NERVOUS. AND I THOUGHT, BREAK MY LEG OR TRY TO THINK OF DIFFERENT EXCUSES HOW I COULD GET OUT OF THE WHOLE THING. OH, I THOUGHT, "I NEED TO GO, I REALLY DO." THEN I'D THINK, "OH, I CAN'T." I THOUGHT MAYBE I COULD ASK THE DOCTOR TO GIVE ME SOME VALIUM. CAN YOU IMAGINE I WAS GOING THROUGH ALL OF THIS, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW I COULD POSSIBLY RELAX AND PERFORM. BUT I TRIED TO THINK POSITIVE AS MUCH AS I COULD. THE TIME ARRIVED. AND THE CONVENTION BEGAN. I WAS IN A DAZE. ALL THESE PEOPLE SIGNING ALL AROUND ME. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE SAYING. ALL I COULD THINK OF IS THAT ONE NIGHT I WOULD PERFORM. JUST WALKED AROUND DAZED. THE TIME CAME. I WENT UP ON STAGE, CAROL STARTED TO INTRODUCE ME. SHE SAID, "WE HAVE A PERSON HERE, A SPECIAL GUEST THAT WILL BE PERFORMING FOR US," WENT ON AND ON ABOUT THE INTRODUCTION. SHE SAID, "AND HERE HE IS," AND I GOT RIGHT ONTO STAGE NO PROBLEM. I WAS SO SURPRISED. I THOUGHT, "THIS IS ME WALKING UP ON STAGE? 500 PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE." I FELT FINE. I STARTED TO DO MY ASL POETRY. I THOUGHT, "THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT I'M DOING THIS WELL." STARTING TO SUPPRESS MY POETRY, PERFORM. I WAS ALL FINISHED, AND PEOPLE WENT WILD IN RESPONSE. I LEFT AND FAINTED ON THE SIDE OF THE STAGE. I THOUGHT, "THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE THAT I JUST DID THAT." I JUST COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. CAROL CAME UP TO ME, SAID, "COME ON, WE WANT SOME MORE." I GOT BACK UP, WENT ONTO STAGE. "THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. THANK YOU," AND PERFORMED ONE MORE POEM, WENT OFF THE STAGE, THOUGHT, "OOH, I'M SO GLAD THAT'S FINISHED." FROM THEN ON, THOUGH, I REALLY TOOK IT MUCH MORE SERIOUSLY. IT WAS REALLY A STRONG IMPACT IN MY LIFE. AS TIME WENT ALONG, I WORKED IN NEVADA IN THE ASL PROGRAM, A LINGUISTICS DEPARTMENT WAS ESTABLISHED AT THE GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY. AND I THOUGHT, "WELL, I WANT TO CHECK THAT OUT," AND I DID. I MOVED TO GALLAUDET TO DC AND GOT A MASTERS DEGREE IN LINGUISTICS IN 1985. TOOK ME 3 YEARS TO GET THAT DEGREE. AND DURING THAT 3 YEARS, I WAS INVOLVED IN WORK AND STUDYING, AND THAT WAS IT. I HAD NO TIME FOR OTHER ACTIVITIES, PERFORMING, NOTHING AT ALL, JUST STUDY AND WORK. SCHOOL AND WORK, THAT WAS IT. IN 1985 WHEN I GRADUATED... I NEEDED A JOB. AND I THOUGHT, "OOH, I DON'T KNOW IF I WANT TO WORK AT GALLAUDET." I WAS NOT INTO SIMULTANEOUS COMMUNICATION AT ALL. I DID NOT WANT TO SUPPORT THAT. I WANTED TO USE AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE. AND I THOUGHT IF I GET A JOB THERE, I'M GOING TO HAVE TO SIGN AND USE MY VOICE AT THE SAME TIME, AND I THOUGHT, "DO I HAVE TO?" I THOUGHT, "HMM, IF I'M TEACHING, MAYBE I WON'T HAVE TO DO THAT." AND I THOUGHT, "WELL, IS IT WORTH THE RISK?" AND I WENT THROUGH QUITE AN EMOTIONAL TIME ABOUT IT. I APPLIED FOR A JOB, HAD THE INTERVIEWS, HAD A PANEL OF INTERVIEWERS. I WAS NERVOUS, BUT I SIGNED AS CLEAR AS I COULD, VERY FORMAL SIGN LANGUAGE. IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT THAT I NEEDED TO BE AWARE OF EVERYTHING AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE. I WANTED TO GIVE THEM ALL THE INFORMATION I WAS AWARE OF DURING THE INTERVIEW. AND THE INTERVIEWERS WERE IMPRESSED, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I COULD TELL THEIR FACIAL EXPRESSION WAS A LITTLE BIT UNNERVED OR SOMETHING. AND I THOUGHT, I DON'T KNOW, I DON'T KNOW IF I DID WELL. I KNEW ANOTHER PERSON WHO WAS VERY GOOD AT SIMULTANEOUS COMMUNICATION. I THOUGHT, OH, THEY'LL PROBABLY BE GIVEN THE JOB. AND THEY WERE KIND OF A BROWN NOSE. BUT THEN I DISCOVERED THAT THEY HAD PICKED ME FOR THE JOB. I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. I THOUGHT THEY SEEMED TO KNOW I USE AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE AT GALLAUDET. THEY STILL ACCEPTED ME. EXCEPT MY JOB OPPORTUNITY WAS IN THE ASL DEPARTMENT. IT'S ALL RIGHT IF YOU JUST USE ASL IN THE ASL PROGRAM, AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS ALL RIGHT. THAT DIDN'T BOTHER ME AT ALL. LATER I TRANSFERRED TO THE LINGUISTICS AND INTERPRETING DEPARTMENT. AND I'VE BEEN WORKING THERE SINCE. I'VE BEEN WORKING THERE FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS IN THAT DEPARTMENT AT GALLAUDET. I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH A LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY, CHECKING OUT DIFFERENT SCHOOLS, TRAVELING, AND INTERVIEWING. I USE AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE. OTHER INTERVIEWERS USE SIMULTANEOUS AND OTHER PEOPLE USE ENGLISH AND ORALISM. WE HAVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE WHO INTERVIEW DIFFERENT PROGRAMS. AND I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED WITH THE CENTER-- CENTRAL INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF IN SAINT LOUIS. OH, IT WAS PHENOMENAL. I THOUGHT, "OH, IT'S JUST, YOU KNOW, REGULAR SCHOOL, CID." WHEN I GOT THERE, STARTED TO INTERVIEW THE STUDENTS, I WOULD SIGN TO THEM IN AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE, AND THEY WOULD RESPOND TO ME WITH ORALISM. AND I COULDN'T... I PUT DOWN ZERO. STUDENT AFTER STUDENT, ONE THAT KNEW A LITTLE BIT OF SIGN LANGUAGE FROM A SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF EXPERIENCE HE HAD BEFORE HE WENT TO THAT SCHOOL, BUT WAS VERY RESISTANT IN USING IT. AND I MET OTHER PEOPLE, THE STAFF AT THAT SCHOOL, AT CID. I STARTED TO REALIZE I WAS VERY MUCH ALONE. PEOPLE WERE NOT SOCIALIZING WITH ME AT ALL. I GOT A LOT OF STRANGE LOOKS. I DID NOT FEEL WELCOME AT ALL. THIS IS FOR 3 DAYS. OH, I'VE NEVER FELT SO LONELY. I REALIZE THAT THAT WORLD IS VERY DIFFERENT. I LEARNED SOMETHING. IT'S GOOD TO SEE SOMETHING FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. PEOPLE WOULD NOT EVEN LOOK ME IN THE EYE IF I TRIED TO GESTURE AND COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO COMMUNICATION ABILITY WITH THEM. THEY WOULD LOOK AT ME, AND THEN WALK AWAY. WE WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE. SO NOW WE COME INTO 1988 FOR THE DEAF PRESIDENT NOW UPROAR. OH, I WAS HEAVILY INVOLVED WITH THAT AND TRIED TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE ACTIVITIES AND I THOUGHT, "WELL, THIS REALLY SIGNALS A CHANGE." BUT EVERYTHING STAYED THE SAME. WE JUST SCRATCHED THE SURFACE. AND THAT WAS ANOTHER BIG IMPACT FOR ME. BEFORE THAT, I WAS A CONTENTIOUS YOUNG MAN AND INTERESTED IN DEBATING ALL OF IT, BUT FOR ALL THE WORK THAT WE DID, WE JUST SCRATCHED THE SURFACE. AND THAT WAS REALLY AN IMPORTANT LESSON TO LEARN. THEN IN 1989, TWO YEARS AGO, THERE WAS ANOTHER UPROAR AT GALLAUDET CALLED ASL NOW. IT WAS ANC, THE ASL NOW CAMPAIGN. AND THAT WAS FOCUSED AROUND THE WHOLE COMMUNICATION POLICY. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT ENGLISH AND SIGN COMMUNICATION AND SIMULTANEOUS COMMUNICATION FOR ALL FACULTY, THAT ALL FACULTY MUST USE SIMCOM. AND I THINK THAT THERE ARE... OH, THERE WAS ALSO A STATEMENT ABOUT ASL AND ENGLISH BEING EQUAL LANGUAGES AND EQUALLY VALID LANGUAGES. AND IT'S REALLY BROUGHT A LOT OF ATTENTION AND CAUSED A LOT OF MEETINGS TO BE CALLED. AND THE FACULTY MET AND HASHED OUT THE ISSUE. AND THEY SAID ENGLISH AND ASL ARE EQUALLY VALID LANGUAGES, BUT... SO THEN IT WAS PLACED TO A VOTE, AND IT PASSED. AND THAT'S ANOTHER THING THAT REALLY AMAZED ME. JUST THIS PAST FALL, THERE WAS THE ENGLISH 50. THIS WAS THIS COURSE CALLED ENGLISH 50. AND MANY DEAF PEOPLE REALLY DID NOT ENJOY TAKING THIS COURSE. YOU HAD TO PASS IT IN ORDER TO GET THROUGH. LIKE, YOU KNOW, IF YOU FAILED THIS COURSE 4 TIMES, THEN YOU'RE OUT OF THE SCHOOL. BUT... THAT WAS THAT PARTICULAR SYSTEM, AND THE DEAF STUDENTS WANTED TO CHANGE IT. BUT THEN ONE OF THE DEAF STUDENTS DIED. HE WAS ONE OF THE LEADERS INVOLVED IN THIS ORGANIZATION AND KEPT GOING BACK AND BACK TO TRY AND FIGHT IT. AND ONE PARTICULAR DAY, HE DIED AS A RESULT OF THE CONFLICT, BUT AFTER THAT, THERE WAS A LOT OF-- SINCE THEN THE ISSUE HAS BEEN PRETTY QUIET AND ENGLISH 50 IS STILL ON THE BOOKS. AND I REALIZE FROM MY MEETINGS AND DISCUSSIONS AND WORKSHOPS, THAT'S REALLY NOT WHAT'S GOING TO DO IT. PUBLICATIONS IS WHAT'S GOING TO DO IT. SO NOW I'VE FOCUSED MY ATTENTION ON WRITING BECAUSE MEETINGS FADE AWAY, BUT WRITING REMAINS. AND SO I'M WORKING IN THAT AVENUE TO GET THIS--HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE LEFT? I'M DONE? GOSH, I'VE GOT TO CATCH UP ON A LOT IN JUST A MOMENT HERE. OK. TO SUMMARIZE, FIRST OF ALL, REMEMBER THE WOMAN FROM VR? I JUST RAN INTO HER AGAIN RECENTLY. IT WAS AT THE AIRPORT. THERE WAS A DEAF CONTINGENT GOING SOME PLACE AND THERE WERE A GROUP OF US ALL SIGNING, AND I LOOKED AT THIS WOMAN AND SHE CAME UP AND SHE SAID, "I SIGN. CAN I HELP YOU?" AND I LOOKED AT THIS FACE AND I THOUGHT, "WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS FACE BEFORE?" AND THEN SUDDENLY IT HIT ME, THAT'S THE VR WOMAN. AND I WAS ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY. AND I THOUGHT, "NO, I CAN CONTROL THIS." SOME OF MY DEAF FRIENDS SAID, "SOMETHING WRONG? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?" I SAID, "NOPE, NOPE. I'M IN CONTROL." SO WE ALL GOT ON THE PLANE, AND I KNEW THAT I HAD TO CONFRONT THIS WOMAN. SO I KEPT MYSELF IN CONTROL, AND I WALKED UP TO HER, AND ACTUALLY I FOLLOWED HER FOR A BIT OF A WAYS. AND SHE SAID, "OH, YOU'RE CLAYTON." SHE EVEN FINGERSPELLED IT NICE AND SLOWLY. AND I THOUGHT, "MY GOD, SHE REMEMBERED ME." I REMEMBERED HER, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW THAT SHE REMEMBERED ME. AND SO I STARTED SIGNING TO HER AND TALKING TO HER. AND SHE WAS JUST SORT OF LOOKING ALL OVER THE PLACE. AND I SAID, "REMEMBER NEVADA?" AND I WORKED THERE AND ON AND ON. AND SHE GOT OUT ONE OF HER BUSINESS CARDS AND HANDED IT TO ME QUICKLY. AND I SAID, "OH, YOU'RE STILL IN VR. HOW AMAZING." AND THEN I KEPT TALKING TO HER. AND SHE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT I WAS SAYING AT ALL. AND SO I SIGNED QUICKLY, AND I FINISHED, AND THEN I WALKED AWAY. AND I HAVE TO ADMIT, IT FELT SO GOOD. AND I REALIZE NOW THAT I WASN'T THE COWERING CHICKEN THAT I THOUGHT THAT I WAS SO LONG AGO. SO IN SUMMARY, NOW I'M GOING TO SCHOOLS FOR THE DEAF TO ALLOW CHILDREN TO UNDERSTAND WHERE POETRY COMES FROM, BUT YOU KNOW THAT SCHOOLS FOR THE DEAF ARE UNDER STATE PROGRAMS. AND SO THEY HAVE YOUNGER CHILDREN SEPARATED FROM THE OLDER CHILDREN. THERE'S NO ANY INTERACTION THERE. SO NOW I'M FOCUSING MY ENERGIES ON TRYING TO GET-- YOU KNOW, I'M CAUSING A STIR IN FANWOOD AND IN DELAWARE, AND I'M TRYING TO CAUSE MORE AND MORE OF A STIR IN DIFFERENT PLACES TO GET ALL OF THE STUDENTS TOGETHER. NOW FINALLY, WHAT DO THEY ALL CALL ME? THEY CALL ME AN UGLY, DEAF AMERICAN. BUT I ACCEPT THE TITLE, BECAUSE I'M STRIVING FOR PROGRESS, AND I AM A DEAF PERSON. AND THAT'S IT. THANK YOU. SO IF YOU WANT TO ASK CLAYTON MORE QUESTIONS, HE'S GOING TO BE IN THE VISITOR'S CENTER, WHICH IS DOWN THE HALL AND AROUND THE CORNER, FROM 2:00 TO 3:00. IS THAT RIGHT? OK, THAT'S THE RIGHT TIME. SECONDLY, I WANT TO THANK OUR TWO INTERPRETERS FOR TODAY, MARIE BERNARD AND MARTHA SHIPPY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. AND THANK YOU, CLAYTON.
Notes: 
"This project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation."