Back from Denver
I’ve just almost literally slept for two days. Now, I’m awake. I’m still processing the enormous experience I’ve just had. I want to share it with all of you. I know not all of you are Americans. I know that those of you that are, might believe in different things than I do. I respect that completely. The beautiful thing about America is that we are allowed to have our own beliefs and our own voice. I’d like to hear yours.
This is mine. I personally believe in hope, I believe in change, and I believe that is what America needs. I believe in Barack Obama.
Some of you might know that I was lucky enough to be a part of the pro-Obama “Yes, We Can” video that not only had something like 9 million views on YouTube, but also went on to win an Emmy. Some of you have asked how I became a part of this. Did I audition? No. Was my agency called? No. What happened was that I had a conversation with a friend. We talked about what we wanted for the future of America. We talked about Obama, and then she put me on the Young Hollywood Fundraising Committee for him. Then she sent me an instant message one day asking me to come be a part of the “Yes We Can” video. So, of course! I did.
A few months later, I saw this friend again, and she asked me if I wanted to come to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. There was going to be a performance of “Yes We Can” with Will.i.am, John Legend, the Black Eyed Peas Band, and the Agape Choir. The vision was that they would sing it while I signed the entire “Yes We Can” speech in my native language, American Sign Language. So, of course! I said yes. Thank you, Sarah Pantera.
It was such an unbelievable experience in general. As with anything that is astonishing, there were many highs and lows. In the end, it was the definition of amazing. It was one of the best things I will ever experience in my life. This was such a historical moment, and there was such an energy to it that was so momentous and inspiring. So many people were so helpful and generous with me. Thank you, Will.i.am, Printz Board, and Dan Catullo.
I was beyond thrilled that my parents were able to come and watch me, that is, until I discovered that my parents were seated, by the ADA people at the DNC (not the people who arranged my appearance) with all the other deaf people, almost behind the stage and three tiers up. None of them could see the stage at all and the interpreters couldn’t even hear parts of Obama’s speech from that distance. I was fortunate enough to meet a deaf delegate, Leah Katz-Hernandez, and a professor, Dr. Veith, that were sent by Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university for deaf people in the world. Even though they were on the floor, they were again seated in the ADA section there, and again, they could not see the stage or the interpreters. There were two interpreters on podiums to the left and the right of the stage, but unfortunately, they were probably not seen by a single deaf person in the Invesco Stadium that night.
As much as I wish I could say they were able to catch me on the television screen during the actual performance, this was not possible because, for some reason, not one camera caught what I was doing. Apparently, they thought I was an interpreter. Despite how amazing and breathtaking it was to be on stage signing Obama’s great speech in front of 75,000 people, this was a little disappointing. This marked the very first time a deaf person, not an interpreter, but a deaf person, was been on stage performing as an equal with live musicians, no less with such admirable performers as Will.i.am, John Legend, and the Black Eyed Peas band, who have all achieved, and will continue to do, so much. This meant a great deal to a lot of individuals in my community and I couldn’t help but feel I’d let so many people down when I found this out, especially with all that the convention represented this year.
Far be it from me to denounce this experience as a negative one. There were so many wonderful things that came from this. The greatest thing of all for me personally was that, thanks to the amazing credentials I was given, I was able to be seated right in front of the podium during Obama’s speech! Thank you, Wendi. There were also two floor workers who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that my personal interpreter and I were able to see both the podium and the stage interpreters. They moved us four times to make sure our seats were satisfactory. The funny thing is that they were not affiliated at any way at all with the ADA office at the DNC. Those are the kind of people that should, from this point forward.
I had the honor of shaking Michelle Obama’s hand. She was just like she appears on television, tall, poised, warm, accessible, and beautiful. I was seated across from her and the girls, so I got to look over and see the Malia and Sasha’s reactions, which were precious! Malia was more poised, while Sasha kept laughing at pictures of herself that came up during Obama’s biography video. When Obama took the stage, the interpreters had no light on them, so I couldn’t see them even though I was probably in the best position in the stadium to. However, I was able to look back and read the teleprompter which was really the best thing that could have happened since I was able to see his words, as he meant them, as he said them.
I was seated among a variety of people. Next to me was a Vietnam veteran, next to my interpreter was an African-American woman shaking huge red pompoms. In front of me was a young Caucasian couple, behind three people in wheelchairs. And we all cheered until our throats were raw.
One thing that stood out for me was that even from where I was sitting, I was able to lip read Obama almost perfectly, and I have never been able to lip read a politician before. Another was when, after he brought his family on stage with him, he leaned down to point out some streamers that had gotten caught in the wire for the camera to his girls, and all four of them shared a laugh. It just seemed so human to me, and so much like a father. Most of you have seen his speech for yourselves, so I will not go into an at length analysis of it. Rather, I want to give you the general feeling of what it was like from where I was sitting, and that is a difficult task, because there are almost no words to describe the feelings and the experience I had. The best one I can find is that it was electrifying.
The bottom line from the entire experience, even though I am not quite finished processing it, is this. We all have more work to do. Our work is not done. We must keep pushing for Obama. Our country needs him. Our world needs him. My work is not done, either. I hope to keep working to raise the profile of deaf people, the community, and what they represent. Let’s start rolling our sleeves up.
As always, thank you for thinking of me and for all your support! I love you all.