Lessons for Change From the Deaf President Now Protest

Have you ever wanted to make a change? Maybe you would like to improve your child’s school? Change something in the community or even the government? This month we remember one group who made a huge difference at Gallaudet. They also changed the Deaf community as a whole, forever.

The Deaf President Now (DPN) protest was a huge success. It is taught in every beginning ASL course and any class on Deaf History and Culture. Again and again we tell the story of DPN. The pride and joy that was felt on the day that a Deaf president was sworn into the office of President at Gallaudet University is still felt every time it is told.

Why do we feel such joy?

Could it be because a group of ordinary people (people like us) were able to do something amazing in the face of opposition by those who were in power?

Was it because they made real change happen?

Is there something that YOU want to accomplish that you feel is impossible?

Is there something that you want to change that affects you and your life?

I know there is!

What made the DPN protest so successful?

What can WE learn today and apply to our own challenges we are facing?

On the Gallaudet website there is an article that lists some ideas as to why the DPN protest succeeded so completely and so quickly. I’d like to take a quick look at some of these factors and how they can work in our lives to move us forward to success in any organization and against any challenge.

  1. They had a TEAM. In the DPN movement there was a huge number of community members involved. They included deaf and hearing students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
  2. The DPN Team used examples. The protesters looked to the past at what had worked in their time to overcome similar issues of oppression. Then they used similar strategies. Since 1989 many things have changed in the way that political battles are fought. It is a good idea to look to recent history and current political methods for good examples. The best way to move forward in a fight against oppression in the political world often changes.
  3. A PLAN:
    • The group of protesters had clearly defined goals. Their approach was focused and direct.
    • Talking to the right people: the DPN protesters focused on communicating with the Board of Trustees. These were the people that could take action on the demands they were making.
    • The protest leaders were incredibly organized. They began the groundwork for their movement months before the actual protest, got the media interested early, and once the protest started, formed an organizing committee and control center.” (The Week of DPN, Epilogue)
  4. Legal, ethical, moral: The protest was non-violent. In almost every way, the protesters respected the law. No one was injured and minimal property damaged.
  5. Use your strengths! The students who became leaders through this protest were able to clearly present their case to others and address an audience. They were intelligent and able to present a strong argument.

What does this mean for you?

When you look to make a change in your life, in an organization, or in government, these are great tips to follow! This is how DPN was successful.

First, decide what you want to change. Then, get a team. Using examples from others who have succeeded, make a plan. Finally, stay on target and keep it legal, ethical and moral! Use the strengths that YOU have! This is how we can change our world.

Reference: The Week of DPN, Epilogue – from Gallaudet.edu  http://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/deaf-president-now/the-issues/the-week-of-dpn

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