As I walked into the room, I saw so many people and almost forgot to sit down, I was having so much fun chatting. My old dear friend, J, found me and we sat down by a whole group of people from my local community. The speeches failed to hold my attention - I was too busy chatting with J and participating in a running commentary with people around me. We kept getting shushed by this older woman seated behind me, who was very polite about it. She said things like, “This is important to me, and I would like to watch. I’d appreciate your keeping it down.” I wanted to cooperate, and tried, but no one else was, and my resolve crumbled. I did try to keep it down and be less distracting, tho’. King came to the stage and we were all, “Emergency! Shh! Watch!” He said some blah blah about how proud Gally is to sponsor NAD, then stopped talking after only a few minutes. We were all like “Huh? Wha’?” for awhile. Then it occurred to one of us that that speech was a sponsor’s speech, not actually the keynote address! Many speeches later, the keynote speech began. A transcript can be found here in Comment #25.
King's keynote speech was infuriating. Rob Rice of DeafDC.com may disagree with me, which is his prerogative, but we were clearly sitting in different areas, and I'm not even sure we witnessed the same speech. For one thing, King chose to simcom. There had been no visible mike all night, but he made a point of searching for it and spent time adjusting it to his satisfaction. His signs were horrible. He dropped many signs and was not particularly clear. I decided to listen to see how good his voice was. He sounded terrible. He had zero cadence, his voice was choppy, and there were a lot of unnatural pauses because his signing and voicing were not quite in sync. I didn’t like it, but hey, at least it’s equal-opportunity. He mangled both languages equally. *grin* The line I most vividly recollect is “The Board of Trustees’ decision is final. Jane Fernandes will be the ninth president of Gallaudet.” His voice was very emphatic and firm when he said final. Another line that drew a lot of ire from conference-goers was “There is no crisis at Gallaudet.” (emphasis his) *snort* If there’s no crisis at Gally, I’m purple with green polka-dots. He also had the gall to quote Mandela post-apartheid, along the lines of reconcilation between whites and blacks and attempted to draw parallels between apartheid and Gallaudet. I spluttered to whoever cared to listen, “How dare he use Mandela when he is perpetuating apartheid at Gallaudet???” My “gang” and I were all muttering angry rebuttals during his speech, because we were aghast at his gross and blatant distortion of the facts. We were also the recipents of requests to shush from the lady in back of me quite a few times during his speech.
When the speech ended, we could not believe how many people clapped. Some of my friends had walked out during his speech, but I chose to stay in order to see what more he had to say and how the audience would react. Well, wotta disappointment. The lady in back of me waved at me, so I politely stopped and turned to face her. She said, “He’s an important man. He did a lot for the deaf community. Why didn’t you clap for him?” My response? “You’re right. He has done a lot for the community. But he has recently divided the community. I cannot support him now.” “But he is a leader. You need to listen to him. FOLLOW what he says.” I took a deep breath and prepared to say calmly, “You and I have different views. That’s okay.” But another woman got her attention, so I didn’t have to confront her. *whew* After they were done, she turned to face me again and wanted to know where I was from. We exchanged a few pleasant sentences, then J and I were off to chat.