By Victoria Hallett: Complete Post through this link…
Four students — two from Gallaudet University and two from the United States Naval Academy — made history Thursday night by participating in an unprecedented debate hosted by Gallaudet’s Center for Democracy in Deaf America (CDDA). In front of a packed crowd at the Gallaudet University Field House, they competed in mixed teams, each with one representative from both schools and using a combination of American Sign Language and English. Their mission was to tackle the question: Should deaf people be allowed to serve in the United States military?
Gallaudet’s Trent Mora and United States Naval Academy midshipman Jason Santiago took the affirmative stance, maintaining that combat has evolved with technology, making it possible for deaf people to perform effectively in more roles. Arguing against the inclusion of deaf service members were Gallaudet’s Lexi Hill and United States Naval Academy midshipman Roy Choi, who asserted that auditory communication remains vital in combat zone scenarios.
A pre-debate poll of those in attendance, which included more than 100 high school students from deaf schools and programs nationwide, found that 73 percent were in favor of deaf people in the military, and only 27 percent were opposed. So when Hill stepped onto the stage for her opening remarks, she acknowledged that she was taking on an unpopular stance. “I like to challenge myself, and I like to view perspectives that are varying and different than mine. I think that’s the whole point of debate,” she explained.
Hill and Choi relied on storytelling to make their case, starting with the scene around them in the Field House. “USNA and Gallaudet have come together and worked tirelessly for this event and coordinated CART, interpreters, CDIs, and still, regardless of all of that effort, something will be lost in translation this evening,” Hill noted. “Now imagine that situation in the fog of war.” They asked the audience to envision ships that have lost their engines, bunkers that have been attacked, and other catastrophic incidents.