I. King Jordan Award – The Magic and Opportunity of Diversity

In ALDA Archives Newsletter by ALDA News

by Cynthia Moynihan

Disability Pride: In 2021, I was blessed and shocked to have three outstanding hearing loss advocates submit my nomination for the I. King Jordan Award. Wow! During the night of the ALDAcon 2021 awards, I found myself being asked to sit with I. King Jordan and he asked what I planned to share on stage. I could barely breathe between finding out I was sitting with my hero and at the same time being asked what I might share with everyone present when I received it.  Speech, what speech? While getting my nerves to calm a bit, I began conversing with I. King and others at the table and began to share a story. He listened with those intelligent blue eyes about my day of my introduction to Disability Pride and, what I refer to as, opportunity. 

Years ago, while visiting family in D.C. with my two very young boys, I was given the gift to explore alone with my brother and his then girlfriend for a single day. In the midst of taking in the endless museums, my brother quietly raised his hand, a cab graciously appeared and we were asked to get in. Once seated, he subtly shared the destination with the cab driver, while ensuring I could not lipread where we were headed! We drove a distance away from the Capitol and made a turn onto Gallaudet University where I observed people engaged and happy and conversing in sign language with laughter abound.

The tears began to flow and did not stop…they would not stop…they could not stop. I was not alone for the first time. That was where my path to Disability Pride truly began as I began to realize I did not need to pretend. I could enable myself with opportunity. The slow process of learning I could begin the steps to wash away feeling the need to play a false me among the hearing began. It was a breath of fresh air! Over time, I learned more about sign language, technology, support groups and expanded my own hearing loss advocacy. Years later, when my oldest graduated from high school, I was feeling another sense of Disability Pride (as I refer to it as opportunity!) with my own graduation from the two-year Gallaudet Peer Mentor program.

As the story came to a close, I blinked away the tears and thanked I. King Jordan for his leadership, compassion and ability to have such a positive influence on so many like myself.  He grinned and suggested I use that very story on stage. A short time later, I was called up to receive this miracle of an award. I silently gave thanks to all the hearing loss advocates present and around the world and I. King Jordan for the gift to share a story and my thanks.

The road of opportunity is not always paved with smiles and kindness. There are those who are concerned or afraid to share ideas and opportunities and work to undermine them with gossip and negativity. But it takes the good, the bad, the indifferent in order to learn. The minute we own our hearing loss, we become an advocate. We are connected in some way, warts and all. We have our differences and are not required to like everyone we connect with, but we can and should work respectfully side-by-side with Disability Pride.

Like so many of you, little did I know that scared young girl I was years ago pretending to be okay in the hearing world would be where she is today.  Embrace your world, find your opportunity and may you feel the gratitude I send your way, always. Thank you. Now take your opportunity and find what works for you!