Harkin Statement on 150th Anniversary of Gallaudet University

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement today on the 150th anniversary of Gallaudet University.

“Since its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Gallaudet University has been a world leader in providing higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals,” Harkin said. “The Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet in 1988 provided critical momentum for the passage the Americans with Disabilities Act two years later, and I know we could not have achieved that without many years of hard work and dedication from leaders and advocates like those at Gallaudet University.

“More than simply providing an education, Gallaudet inspires its students and all people—those with and without disabilities—by showing the world how deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are capable, talented, and valuable members of society. I am proud to support the important work that Gallaudet University does every day to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students pursue their dreams, and I know that Gallaudet will continue to play an important role in ensuring disability rights over its next 150 years.” 

As Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Harkin has been a leading champion for Americans with disabilities. Harkin, whose brother Frank was deaf, is the Senate author of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He also delivered the first-ever Senate floor speech in American Sign Language (ASL). In February 2014, Harkin and Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) co-hosted the first in a series of monthly lectures for senators and their staff on the deaf community and its culture.  The lectures are intended to help senators and their staffers expand their knowledge of deaf culture and learn some basic phrases in American Sign Language (ASL) to more effectively communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors to their offices. Last year, Harkin commemorated the 25th Anniversary of Gallaudet University’s “Deaf President Now” movement and the role it played in helping to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.