Home > Deaf History, Opinion > John McCain was a chair of the Gallaudet University board of trustees

John McCain was a chair of the Gallaudet University board of trustees

November 9, 2008

By Bug

John McCain is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republician candidate in the 2000 and 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. He used to be a chair of the Gallaudet University board of trustees.

In November 2006 McCain stepped down from the board because he disagreed with the decision to end the appointment of incoming Gallaudet President Jane K Fernandes. He was unhappy with Gallaudet protests. He felt that decision to terminate her appointment was unfair and not in the best interests of Gallaudet University.

Jane K Fernandes was an unpopluar provost. They say that she does not appreciate the primacy of American Sign Language at Gallaudet and in deaf culture and that she lacks leadership qualities. One Gallaudet student said that Dr. Fernandes did not say hello when she ran into students on campus.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to serve the board after its decision to terminate her appointment, which I believe was unfair and not in the best interests of the University,” McCain wrote to outgoing President I. King Jordan.

McCain did not give much explainations why he resigned as a chair of the board of trustees.  If he did, maybe he would get more votes and supports from the Deaf Americans. Many Deaf Gallaudet students feels that John McCain was not loyal to Gallaudet for some reasons. He rarely attended to the meetings. They feel that McCain did not care about what was going on at Gallaudet when there were some issues. He made a choice by not having the opportunity to hear the issues surrounding the protest.

Did he really care about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans? Many people did not know that John McCain was a strong advocate of telecommunication legislation benefitting Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. He introduced the Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act of 1988 and also he was a chief co-sponsor of the T.V. Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. The federal law requires most new T.V. sets to have built-in decorder circuitry capable of receiving closed captioned programming.  McCain was also a chief co-sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

John McCain failed to capture enough votes to win to be U.S. President. The next U.S. President will be Barack Obama.

Good news is that Obama knows basic American Sign Language.

CORRECTION: John McCain was a Gallaudet University’s board of trustees not as a chair. Brenda Jo Brueggemann was Board Chair. Good news is that Obama knows a couple American Sign Language signs.

Categories: Deaf History, Opinion
  1. correction
    November 9, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    McCain was never the chair of the Board. He was an honorary member as a United States Senator. He never attended a meeting. Yet, the Board was stunned when he sent out his letter of resignation even though he never attended meetings and never made an effort to find out about the protest. He didnt even vote when the Presidential selection was made. He was in the dark about eveything.

  2. Maryland
    November 9, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    What evidence is there that Obama knows basic ASL?

  3. Scott
    November 9, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Basic ASL – LOL what is basic ASL? You mean basic sign language. There is no such thing as basic ASL.

  4. Mishka Zena
    November 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    McCain helped with the passing of ADA, too. His lack of accessibility in his speeches and vlogs was very strange, considering his involvement with ADA and his ‘membership’ at Gallaudet BoT. Obviously he wasn’t interested in Deaf and HoH Community.

    Obama told someone that he doesn’t know any sign other than thank you.

  5. November 9, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Good article (written by Bug)

  6. Concur Correction
    November 9, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    100 percent correct on Correction’s comment. I, Gally graduate, followed the President process and protest very closely. Another thing about Oboma is that he knows two signs, Thank you and I Love You. No idea if he know more than that.

  7. Diane
    November 9, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Good … McCain is out.

  8. Mike
    November 10, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Nice article. I think Bug means that Obaama knows a few basic signed words like “thank you, I love you, etc”

  9. Steve V.
    November 10, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I agree with the Numbers 1 and 6.

    Sen. McCain never was Chair of BoT. Please tell us where you got this infomation?

  10. BillytheGoat
    November 10, 2008 at 10:31 am


    It’s hard evidence that he was the chair of the Gallaudet University board of trustees.

    Have something to say, Steve V and correction?

  11. Sam the Bright
    November 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

    It just a bonus that McCain is with Gally that doesn’t mean anything.

  12. BillytheGoat
    November 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

    How do you know that Obama knows the basic sign language? Because he knows two signs, Thank you and I Love You? The people like gangsters, rock stars, movie stars, soldiers, etc know two signs too. We need to find out if he REALLY knows the basic sign language, not the thank you and I love you sign.

  13. Steve V.
    November 10, 2008 at 10:47 am

    To Billythegoat:

    That article said that Brenda Jo Bra… was the chair, NOT John McCain. Please do your research before you say something that is not correct.

    John McCain was never the Chair of BoT…YOu can call the Office of Public Affairs at Gallaudet. They will tell you that John McCain was never the Chair.

  14. A.J
    November 10, 2008 at 11:10 am

    McCain never attend the meeting? Gallaudet is stupid to have him as BOT.

  15. Deaf Anonymous
    November 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I’m neutral to point I didn’t vote for either this time.

    Whenever sheer numbers are considered many deaf folks need to learn how to differentiate between the ADA movement (involving millions deaf and hard of hearing people) and Gallaudet (involving just a few thousands plus alumni). This is oranges and apples.

    McCain simply left Gallaudet to their own devices as he felt the spat at Gallaudet wasn’t worth his time so just leave this at that. He was just a figurehead who many took for granted. Why didn’t Gallaudet motion to do something about his capacity a long time ago?

    Regardless of your positions in this you need to see the Gallaudet community as a very tiny piece of the picture involving deaf and hard of hearing people and the ADA.

    If many deaf people are so hard up about McCain why did many of you vote for Obama despite the fact Obama sidestepped (avoided) the same-sex marriage issue (big in homosexual-heavy deaf communities) leaving this up to each state?

  16. Hershey
    November 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    This is a good example of how people want to be connected to the right organization, bill, law, club and etc. for the title, credit and etc. yet jump ship when there is any kind of disagreement that might possibly be connected back to them or leave some small blemish on their career advancement. What ever happened to being people first?

    Thanks for proof, The Washington Post link, that McCain was indeed NOT the Chair but simply a member of the Gallaudet’s Board of Trustee who choose to resign after the Chair, Brenda Jo Brueggemann resigned.

    Geeze Everyone….

    McCain didn’t attend one meeting?? Talk about taking up space. I hope that future members of the Board of Trustees are more active than this. One thing that always bothered me through all the protests and had me questioning… W”hy aren’t there more deaf or people with hearing loss on Gallaudet’s Board? After all it one of the only two deaf colleges nationwide. So shouldn’t the board representation reflect this? Why was this allowed to happen all these years? Why was it only looked at during the latest protest?

    Hey Bug.. Can you correct this to read?:
    Good news is that Obama knows a couple American Sign Language signs.

    (In my opinion, this is just another example that shows that proofreading, mastery of the written English language, looking at things from another’s point of view and/or asking another person to give their thoughts before publishing is important for all of us even if ASL is our first language. But that is another debate for another page.)

  17. Allison
    November 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Ok, first off, as everyone has pointed out, John McCain was not the chair. Secondly, we need those two honorary members of congress, to be a part of the BOT, so that we can keep Gallaudet up and running!!

    We get so much money from congress, to help pay for the high cost of Gallaudet. If we didn’t have anyone sponsoring bills that allow Gallaudet to get money, it would be broke in less than a month. The tuition that a student pays is so low, but the actual cost is around 75k per year! Would VR pay for you to go to one of the most expensive schools in the country? I think not. That is why Gallaudet is located in DC so they can get the money they need.

    McCain just didn’t want to get involved with the whole mess of the protest. He was totally in the dark to the real issues, he didn’t vote for Jane nor has he ever attended a meeting.

  18. Allison
    November 10, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    OH AND… if you all recall DPN, a hearing person CANNOT be the chairman, one of the demands of the protest.

  19. Concur Correction
    November 10, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    On NBR 10 above, Please re-read…

    Brenda Jo Brueggemann from Ohio resigned as a Board Chair after McCain resigned as a Board member. How could McCain be a Board Chair afterall he hardly attended a meeting.

  20. November 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Hi all, thank you for correcting my errors in giving the wrong details about McCain’s postion. At first I thought he was a chair of the board of trustees. I realized that he was a Gallaudet University’s board of trustees not as a chair. Brenda Jo Brueggemann was Board Chair.

    In my excitment I mentioned that Obama knows some basic sign language. I should say ” Good news is that Obama knows a couple American Sign Language signs.” (thanks to Hershey for the tip).

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, opinions, responses, and help. I apologize for the small errors.


  21. RLM
    November 10, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    U.S. Vice President Al Gore appointed Sen. John McCain as a “non-voting” member to Gallaudet University’s Board of Trustees which the law required two individuals from different political party to serve on the board.

    I wrote the previous blog entry – “Why in the world Senator John McCain accepted the appointment to Gallaudet University Board of Trustees if he really weren’t interested in the issues of deaf and HOH”?

    McCain is just a classic opporunitist!

    How will we react to Obama’s executive orders to reverse the stem cells research which could lead to the reversal or restoration of hearing loss (I hate this term!)?

    Will Obama be our real enemy or ally? Let’s see and wait!


  22. Brian Milburn
    November 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Apparently a deaf woman went to an Obama rally and interacted with Obama through basic sign language which was more than just “thank you” and “ily.” According to her, Obama can sign – but the limit of his capacity is unknown. Obama told her himself that he can sign “some.”

    Watch the 2nd half of this video:

  23. Linda
    November 11, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Brian, it is not enough evidence as it is called ‘hearsay’. So where’s proof that he can sign?

  24. Deaf Anonymous
    November 11, 2008 at 2:47 am

    RLM. There’s always a chance McCain got into this thinking he could make a difference but after seeing how Gallaudet communities can be contrary to the majority of the deaf and hard of hearing world there was less of a reason to come to the meetings. One way or other McCain won’t make a difference. He just drew a lousy draw. There’s numerous democrats on record who didn’t give a care either. While you figure out whether you’d like to get on top or bottom of certain boys you talked about in enamored tones your political stereotyping needs to cease.

  25. Robert
    November 12, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Both McCain and Obama are politicians. Neither one gives a crap about Deaf people. The candidates only learned the ILY and Thank You signs to appear that they care.

  26. Anonymous
    November 13, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Hey, Fookem & Bug you dont know if Obama know about ASL WTF!!!!! you such add it talk too much so stop adding that

  27. Hartmut
    November 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Interesting, more Deaf people participated in the discussion on this page, headed by “Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf” than the interpreters themselves!

    When one poster transmited the info about McCain being the chair of the BoT of Gallaudet, I know that is incorrect, even though I haven’t kept up-to-date about the BoT appointments. It showed faulty thinking and ignorance of the basic facts. Firstly, a member of the Congress cannot serve as the Chair, for they lack commitment and time to do serve this time-consuming task. Secondly it is well-known that members of the Congress shine through their absence at BoT-meetings. They even cannot be expected to attend at least ten percent of meetings. Thirdly, as a stipulation, the chair of the BoT must be deaf as part of the agreement of DPN, and the make up of the deaf members on the be at least 51%.BoT.

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