usa-presidents-link-with-the-deaf

– President #1:
George Washington –

years of noise exposure (hunting and fighting in the wars)
made Washington a late-deafened man; in fact he probably
had problems listening to political speeches when running
the country as the nation’s first president!

– President #2:
John Adams:

denounced Freemasonry because it discriminated against the deaf

– President #3:
Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson said:

I should not like to have a school of deaf and dumb made a
member of our College. The objects of the two institutions are
fundamentally distinct. The one is science, the other mere
charity; was he opposing ahead of his time, the creation of
Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton and its
sister campus – Virginia School for the Negro Deaf?

– President #4:

James Madison favored the separation of church and state. His
views came back to haunt him posthumously in a Supreme Court
decision 157 years after his death.

James Zobrest, a deaf student in a Catholic school, wanted an
interpreter. The school district said no citing separation of
church and state. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Zobrest
in 1993.

– President #5:
James Monroe – Clerc stopped at Washington, DC to give a
presentation, in sign language, at a Congressional session.
Monroe, observing the presentation, was mesmerized by Clerc’s
signed speech.

And, one of Monroe’s relatives owned some land on the Manhattan
island. That piece of land housed the old campus of the New York
School for the Deaf (not yet known as Fanwood at that time)

– President #6:
John Quincy Adams

he encouraged architect John Haviland to move from Europe to USA to
advance his architectural career. One of Haviland’s architectural
projects was the Pennsylvania Institution for the Education of the
Deaf and Dumb, which, over the years became the Pennsylvania School
for the Deaf

– President #7:
Andrew Jackson

became late deafened, caused by his long list of illnesses and
war wounds; as a president he oversaw the 1830 Census which
collected data on deaf Americans

Deaf silhouette artist James H. Whitcomb did a work on Andrew
Jackson, in which he affixed his signature. It is in a
collection at a museum in Boston

– President #8
Martin Van Buren

Amos Kendall, postmaster general during the administration of
President Martin Van Buren moved on to help found
Gallaudet University by lending his estate (Kendall Green)

– President #9
William Henry Harrison

founded Vincennes University, which, later on has included Indiana
School for the Deaf in its enrollment figures
( http://www.vinu.edu/AboutVU/History_Mission/index.aspx )

– President #10
John Tyler

John Daniel Imboden, a teacher at Virginia School for the
Deaf and Blind at Staunton (VSDB), was so inspired by the
leadership of John Tyler that he decided to get involved
on a state level. Rising on the state administrative
levels, he assumed responsibility for the VSDB funding
and the budgeting process

– President #11
James K. Polk

as an incumbent, was defeated in the Tennessee gubernatorial
race by James C. Jones, a state Whig party leader. Jones,
as the new governor, approved legislation which created the
Tennessee School for the Deaf

– President #12
Zachary Taylor

before becoming President, he led the army in Texas which
fought the Mexicans; one of his fighters was Deaf Smith

– President #13
Millard Fillmore

as an attorney in Buffalo, NY, he hired young attorney Edward
Hughes Thomas; after leaving Fillmore’s practice, Thomas
moved to Flint, Michigan and became a state senator. One of
bills by Thomas was to establish the Michigan School for
the Deaf

– President #14
Franklin Pierce

as president, appointed Richard Roman as consul to Guaymas,
Mexico; later in life, Roman became late-deafened and had
to communicate via pad and pen

– President #15
James Buchanan

was supported by James C. Jones, a Tennessee political leader,
in his candidacy for the presidency. Jones, as the state
governor, approved legislation which created the Tennessee
School for the Deaf

– President #16
Abraham Lincoln

as the president, signed the charter that authorized Gallaudet
University as a degree-conferring college for the deaf;
oversaw the operations of the Union Army during the Civil
War. A number of deaf soldiers fought for the Union (as
well as for the Confederacy) in the war

– President #17
Andrew Johnson

as the president, vigorously opposed the Civil Rights Law,
thus killing it before it could be introduced, as the
forerunner of the ADA; as a senator from Tennessee, before
he became the Vice President (Lincoln’s assassination
elevated him to presidency), he made this comment
“being deaf and dumb is no reason for promotion” while
turning down the promotional chances of a deaf man
that was employed in the Patents Office. He made that
comment in front of a senator who wanted the deaf person
given a chance for a promotion. This senator never
forgot that comment and saved it to vote against
Johnson during his impeachment trial

– President #18
Ulysses S. Grant

was said to be tone-deaf; supported the concept of the
Civil Service, in which years later, became a great source
of employment of the deaf

– President #19
Rutherford B. Hayes

before he became president, he showed strong interest
in education of the deaf and handed out the diplomas
to the first graduating class at Ohio SD in 1869

– President #20
James A. Garfield

officially established the Civil Service Commission, which years
later became a great source of employment of the deaf; he also
was a supporter of educational programs for the deaf; when he
was assassinated, the deaf community felt a deep sense of loss;
it was at Gallaudet when he gave his last public speech

– President #21
Chester A. Arthur

appointed Francis E. Warren as the Territorial Governor of
Wyoming; Warren went on to establish the education programs
for the deaf in the Wyoming territory (before it became a state)

– President #22 and #24
Grover Cleveland

Met up with Deaf-Blind Helen Keller (she would eventually meet
up with all American presidents, from Cleveland to Lyndon B.
Johnson). At a 1886 Gallaudet graduation ceremony, Cleveland,
who was invited, fell asleep during the graduation speech when
the speaker turned to the president to make a point.

– President #23
Benjamin Harrison

was criticized by historians for doing nothing to promote the
rights of the disabled, the deaf included

– President #25
William McKinley

appointed James Longstreet, a late-deafened career politician,
as US Commissioner of Railroads; also Vice President
Henry C. Kelsey, as a young man, played “deaf” in order to
eavesdrop on private and confidential conversations carried
on by individuals in positions of power and authority

– President #26
Theodore Roosevelt

was deaf in one ear; proposed to establish an all-deaf cavalry
unit that would fight in the World War I and in fact, asked
for deaf volunteers; there was a long list of these deaf sign
ups; the idea, however was shot down by President Woodrow
Wilson. One of his pictures was taken by a deaf photographer
Alexander L Pach, and for that this deaf man was called
“Photographer of Presidents.”

– President #27
William Howard Taft

was tone-deaf

– President #28
Woodrow Wilson

served as president during World War I and he turned down
Theodore Roosevelt’s proposal of an all-deaf cavalry unit
that would fight in the war

– President #29
Warren G. Harding

among Harding’s circle of friends, whom he invited for private
events was inventor Thomas A. Edison, who was deaf

– President #30
Calvin Coolidge

his wife taught the deaf and knew sign language, even
though she never used it in classes at the Clarke School
for the Deaf (before she married him)

– President #31
Herbert C. Hoover

became late-deafened during the last few years of his life;
even during the Depression, he approved additional funding
for Gallaudet University

also he appointed John R. Gregg, a deaf man who invented the
Gregg Shorthand, to the American delegation that participated
at the International Congress on Commercial Education

– President #32
Franklin D. Roosevelt

gave several speeches that promoted the rights and needs of
the deaf

– President #33
Harry S. Truman

knew as one of his small town neighbors in Independence, MO,
a deaf family whom he would wave “hi” as he passed by them
while walking in the downtown district on a regular basis.

These walks took place after Truman stepped down from the
presidency and he moved back to his home town.

– President #34
Dwight D. Eisenhower

was said to have used the ASL services of a deaf employee
in the Department of Defense to communicate in coded sign
language that could not be eavesdropped by the enemy during
World War II years

– President #35
John F. Kennedy

Virgil (Ed) Hoffman, a deaf man, claimed to have seen the
shooter in action when he pointed his rifle at President Kennedy,
a claim that was supposedly stonewalled by law enforcement
officers

– President #36
Lyndon B. Johnson

was probably the most pro-deaf of all the American presidents;
on a spur of the moment, crashed the 1966 Gallaudet
graduation ceremonies, uninvited to give an unscripted
commencement speech; signed into law the bill to create
the establishment of NTID on the RIT campus; expanded the
scope of the Captioned Films for the Deaf

And that was not all, wife Ladybird Johnson came to
NTID several times, especially to witness the dedication
of the LBJ building on the RIT/NTID campus

– President #37
Richard M. Nixon

while campaigning for the presidency against Kennedy,
he stopped at the Iowa School for the Deaf to give a
campaign speech; signed the Rehabilitation Act,
which was to give better rehabilitation services
for the deaf

– President #38
Gerald R. Ford

signs Education of All Handicapped Children Act, which triggers
a slow but steady decline in enrollment at residential schools
for the deaf

– President #39
Jimmy Carter

hosted the introduction of Telecaption Adapter for the Deaf
at a White House ceremony; and among members of his extended
family tree, he had a deaf step-cousin. In early seventies,
that deaf step-cousin came to see Carter, at that time the
governor of Georgia to ask about setting up the Atlanta Area
School for the Deaf. Carter then dipped into the state
emergency fund to secure seed money to start the school
program. Years after the school was in operation, Carter
was asked about his role in getting the funds. Not
surprisingly Carter could not remember what he did
years back!

– President #40
Ronald W. Reagan

was a Hollywood actor and paid the price – his hearing loss,
in which he was outfitted with a hearing aid during his
presidency; he had to suffer these loud mock gunshot noises
in Western movie scenes he played.

– President #41
George H. W. Bush

signed the ADA into law; wife Barbara Bush visited NTID
and was given a private tour

And in 1977, he showed up at the National Deaf Slo-Pitch softball
tournament that took place in Houston. He watched few innings
and then left. Bush’s assistant, however, stayed for the entire
game. The very thrilled AAAD officers allowed Bush and his party
to attend the tournament without paying admission fees.

It was made possible by invitation of Howard Gorrell, one of the
tournament players, who was professionally acquainted with some
of Bush’s associates. After the tournament Gorrell was honored
with an invitation to the Bush residence.

– President #42
William J. Clinton

was outfitted with a hearing aid during his presidency; he gave
the commencement address at Gallaudet University in 1994.

And while he served as Governor of Arkansas he jogged many mornings through
the campus of Arkansas School for the Deaf!

– President #43
George W. Bush

was said to flash a hand signal (forefinger and little finger
thrust upfront; index and ring finger against the palm) that
was considered to be inappropriate by deaf and by
religious groups.

– President #44
Barack Obama

wife Michelle Obama, as a high school student,
wrote classroom notes for the benefit of her
deaf and hard of hearing classmates