Greetings NAD Delegates,
I wish you all a productive and enjoyable week at the NAD Conference in Louisville. You have an important burden facing you as you vote for the new Board of Directors and for proposals. You are determining the direction of the NAD for the next two years and the effectiveness of the NAD in its fight to preserve deaf schools, ASL, accessibility, and the various civil, human, and linguistic rights that concern deaf Americans. I offer a few thoughts today before you depart for the conference.
First, I endorse Sheri Ann Farinha for President of the NAD. She is a proven passionate advocate for ASL and for the rights of deaf children to education. Farinha also has a keen understanding of inclusion, diversity, and coalition building. It is important that we have a leader that can mobilize many people under a single banner and carry on the good fight. I believe Farinha is capable of aggressively pushing the NAD forward in a positive direction. She has many testimonials of her leadership abilities from many prominent leaders and figures within the deaf community. She has gotten the “ear” of the California legislature. Farinha has my full confidence.
Second, I would like to speak to Chris Wagner and CSD. I do NOT suggest that the CSD is some sort of evil entity or that CSD is a poor model of governance. I appreciate those affiliated with CSD who have given their time, energy, and fiscal support to the NAD and its objective to improve life for deaf Americans. Rather, I suggest that stagnant leadership in itself is problematic. It does not matter if it is CSD or Gallaudet or what not. The specific individuals have changed over the years but the fact remains that for 14 of the last 19 years, the President of the NAD has been closely affiliated with CSD, serving in executive positions. 25% of the current Board has a relationship with CSD.
This presents many potential problems. For one, stagnant leadership. CSD has its own culture, its own way of doing things, its own philosophy. Those who work at CSD and rise up in its ranks are bound to inherit and practice that culture, that way of doing things, that philosophy. Then they carry that thinking and way of doing over into the NAD. When we have the same way of thinking, same way of doing, same way of seeing, for so long, it can be hard to adapt. It can be hard to react to new pressures and situations. With all of the complaints and issues that have emerged as of late, especially with the NAD’s poor use of public relations and new media (slight improvement as of late but much more can and needs to be done if we want to be effective in the 21st century as advocates for schools for the deaf and ASL), it is perhaps time to flush out old ways of thinking and doing and bring in a new way of thinking and doing.
I also am concerned about potential gray areas developing. As a historian, I understand and have seen how past NAD presidents along with the NAD itself were influenced by the leadership’s personal biases, work, and experiences. Often, those influences are not intentional. Often, the leaders want to act in an ethical way (and do). Often, leaders believe strongly they are indeed carrying out the mandates/resolutions passed by the membership. But yet, influence creeps in. More weight is given to particular issues than others. The responses to pressure and crises are shaped by the individual’s worldview. Despite Wagner’s best intentions, or Scoggins’ for that matter, we cannot claim a complete divorce between their positions as Officers of the NAD and their employment/lived experience. What will Deaf Historians discover in 20 years’ time as we come back to the late 1990s and early 2000s to study deaf activism for equal access to citizenship? Biases are often difficult to uncover in the present but with historical analysis, they are rather obvious. I’d hate someday to see somehow, due to biases and influences now invisible to us, we failed to act as efficiently and expediently as possible to preserve deaf schools, ASL, and ensure access for all deaf people.
Third, last but not least. I love Kelby Brick’s proposal. I think it’s necessary. And absolutely perfect. Some have described it as radical. But really. Over time, everything that has been progressive, just, and necessary was once labeled radical. Many progressive ideas considered “way out there radical” are now the standard. For example, educating girls? Teaching little girls how to read and write? Whoa, how radical! Now that’s standard. There are many examples out there, but you get the idea. So with 100% of my being, I endorse this and hope you will too!
Have a great time. I wish I could join you this year. Remember. The Future of the NAD and Deaf America is in your hands. That’s a huge responsibility. Treat that trust with care.