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Major Breakthrough Today in Deaf Culture Renaissance Movement at Gallaudet University–
Gallaudet President Robert R. Davila issued a video blog today in which he makes explicit reference to American Sign Language as being a bona fide and fully recognized language, declaring that ASL has achieved “full language status.”
In his video blog, President Davila interviewed deaf actress Tami Lee Santimyer who is appearing tonight (and also other dates through April 14, 2007) in Gil Eastman’s play “Sign Me Alice” at Gallaudet. After Ms. Santimyer spoke about Gil Eastman’s background and she referred to ASL as being the “best language to use in the education of deaf people,” whereupon President Davila responded:
That’s really wonderful. You’ve given us a look at the history of the deaf community. It’s very important to name some people who had important roles in promoting ASL to full language status. I think that’s wonderful. I don’t mind telling you that I’m proud of the fact that I was here at Gallaudet as a student when Gil Eastman first came here as a student from Connecticut. We became good friends and were good friends throughout his life.
The statement on the video blog represents a signal moment in the history of the deaf, giving momentum to the current Deaf culture renaissance movement which is sweeping through Gallaudet University and the North American deaf community.
Gallaudet was established by Edward Gallaudet and Sophia Fowler Gallaudet in 1864 (under the sponsorship of the United States Federal Government) for the purposes of educating deaf people in their natural language, with full respect granted to the equal cultural status that deaf people achieved since the establishment of the famous school for the deaf in Paris in the 1760’s. Edward Gallaudet had accepted the invitation from Amos Kendall to establish the Columbia Institution for the Deaf in 1857, in order to achieve his dream of creating a school system for the deaf which was national in scope. Edward Gallaudet, though hearing, grew up in Hartford, Connecticut and became a native speaker of American Sign Language, having learned it from his deaf mother, Sophia Fowler Gallaudet, and also his hearing father Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, but especially also from Laurent Clerc who was a graduate of the school for the deaf in Paris.