Dawn of a New Era: the Sequel

20 years ago, I felt as though I was entering a new period of life and was filled with excitement at all the possibilities before me. At Gallaudet University, my friends and I had formed an entirely new management team for Buff and Blue, the school’s student newspaper, and recruited stellar talent.

Before releasing our first issue in the fall of 1997, we sat in a circle and brainstormed ideas until we hit on “Dawn of a New Era.” It was perfect! We had a brand new team and a fresh look with full-image covers, like a magazine (previously, it had the traditional text-heavy newspaper cover). The response from the student body was overwhelmingly positive.

Cup of cofee next to an old newspaper with full cover image of a statute and sun rising behind it, large headline DAWN OF A NEW ERA.

Credit: Buff and Blue Sept 1997 – Anyone remember who was the rare college student willing to wake at the crack of dawn to take this picture?

That energy is likely what attracted me to the dot.com and event industries, where excitement is a regular feeling – the thrill of a vision, of new things to come, and of creating positive experiences for people who enter a website or event venue for the first time.

Buff and Blue was my first job in business, as the newspaper’s business manager. I was excited about reinstating off-campus subscriptions for alumni and parents to stay connected with the campus. The team was equipped with brand new Macs and top-of-the-line software. We were college students about to strike out into the world and make a difference; the potential was limitless.

It truly felt like the start of a new era. But really, I had no idea what was to come.

  • Two-way texting
  • dot.com boom
  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Smartphones
  • Facebook
  • Cloud Data Storage
  • Amazon
  • Tablets
  • Airbnb
  • Smart Appliances
  • Uber/Lyft

…. on and on and onthe list goes!

This list does not include technological advances in flight, energy, biology, medicine, and so many more fields. The rate of change over the past two decades has been exponential. My mind is blown just thinking about what this pace of change means for our future. This was a new era, in a bigger way than I imagined, especially for Deaf people like me, thanks to technology.

All of these technologies have made a difference in my life – both in general and very specifically as a Deaf professional who uses e-mail, online chat, and other technologies to thrive in my career. 20 years ago, working with someone on the other side of the world was still something exotic. Now, I’ve had many rich experiences of working and interacting with people around the world (the world!) on a daily basis, through my computer.

Last year, when I was searching my archives, I came across this copy and remembered that strong sensation of an incipient new era. I reflected on how enriching the experience at Gallaudet was, and how it shaped the course of my career to come – as well as my fellow student journalists’.

From that dream team at Buff and Blue, many went on to lead extraordinary lives. So many times, I’ve been proud to say “I know them!” Some live in other countries, rode a bike across America, got a fellowship at Cambridge, starred in a Tony-award winning play, published books, became leaders, built businesses, and more.  Others led simple lives but are equally as amazing: they grew gardens, volunteered in the community, taught children, programmed apps…

As I looked at the cover, I was struck with the strongest sensation that we were on the brink of another new era, with empowerment for women, persons of color and the Deaf community.

Dr. Bobbi Cordano had just been selected as the first Deaf female president of Gallaudet University. While I was for Bernie Sanders and his platform, I was slowly warming up to Hillary Clinton because I liked the prospect of having the first female POTUS.

While women were being recognized, included, even pursued — particularly in the tech industry — the collective Deaf voice was becoming more unified and stronger, using media as the vehicle. It all seemed inevitable – finally, true equality in our society!

This inspired me to blog about how working on Buff and Blue impacted my life and how I look forward to another new era. I remember thinking, “Dang it, if it were one year later, it’d be a perfect 20-year anniversary blog piece.”

…. then Trump got elected. Mood killer!

I did think to myself, “Well it still fits, it’s most certainly going to be a new era of some kind!” But I couldn’t write about it, not just then. The shock was too great.

The Coming Sequel

Today, one year later, I find myself reflecting on recent events: the annual city-wide Startup Week in Washington, D.C., where inclusion was a major theme; getting Deaf Women United to add inclusion to their mission statement at the conference; attending and presenting at the conference hosted by Deaf Entrepreneurship Network; and the launch of a brand new DeafMade Cooperative.

… guess what? I find that I still have the same feeling of standing on the brink.

We are about to enter a new era of extraordinary growth and connection,  especially those of us in the Deaf community.

Despite everything going on with our politics, or perhaps because of it all. Dirt cannot be cleaned without touching or seeing it, after all. We are in the darkest of the night, but the dawn is coming, however faint.

Policy and perspectives have been changing, affecting everyone inside and outside of the Deaf Community, women, persons of color, and disabled folk. Here’s what I see coming:

For the Deaf Community

Media will be the vehicle for us to finally take charge of our voice, no longer relying on third parties to tell our story for us. We will solve communication and education challenges, on an international level, with innovation and interactive media.

Cordano’s vision for Gallaudet University is that the university will be a part of this change, and she seeks to emphasize Gallaudet’s global impact by telling stories of Deaf graduates who went on to be change leaders all over the world.  Cordano is already winning hearts and minds, dispelling myths and spreading a strong message of unity with this refrain:

“…it is not ‘my’ presidency but ‘your’ presidency.”  

from Coming Home to Gallaudet University by Frank Wu

I believe that this philosophy will “trickle down” to the rest of our community so that inclusion, accountability, equality, and innovation are recognized as the values that will successfully drive change and improvement for all people around the world.

Racism & Inequality will be Redefined

Social justice movements and live chats have sparked  awareness and conversations about race, sexism, and inequality in our lives: #BlackLivesMatter; #AXSchat; #TakeTheKnee; #EverydaySexism; and so many more.

The refrain everywhere is: How can we create a truly inclusive society?

Image of Andre Kendi in a bookstore seated on a stool giving a lecture to an audience

Credit: Andre Chung for the Undefeatted

In an excellent feature article on TheUndefeated.com, “Ibram Kendi, One of the Nation’s Leading Scholars of Racism Says Education and Love Are Not the Answer,” Lonnae O’Neal writes about how Dr. Kendi, who established the new Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, is challenging the ideas of what causesracism.

We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.

This made me wonder, “Does this concept apply everywhere there is inequality?”

As we undergo a major political shake-up, now is the time to have these conversations and reshape our democracy for everyone who experiences discrimination and oppression.

Climate Change & Technology

Now that the effects of climate change are here, we will experience an influx of climate refugees who will be passionate about improving our infrastructure and support programs.

We will start seeing our lifestyles change dramatically in good ways, since developing practices that keep the earth healthy will naturally lead to a healthier population.

Let’s not forget the exponential rate of development of new technologies. Can you imagine what the medical industry will look like in 20 years?! I know I probably can’t imagine it enough, I certainly didn’t the first time around.

Image of a young man touching a screen with holographic images of medicine and technology floating around him

Credit: Andre Lira

 

Beyond using technology and media as a vehicle for equality and lifestyle change, we will see non-techies being able to program whatever rules they want into their appliances, apps, and transportation. For example, it will be easy to program a refrigerator to detect when milk is low and auto-order a delivery.

Lots of fun, geeky stuff. Oh, and yes, cars will finally self-pilot and fly!

….. And now I close this 20-year anniversary post with a loud welcome to the new era we face:

Goooooooooooood morning, America.
Let’s rise and shine!

POSTSCRIPT: All the negative happenings – politics, mass shootings, human rights, etc, has its place in another blog post. I don’t mean to dismiss or devalue what those things mean in the coming era by not mentioning these aspects, the impact it will forever have on our culture, victims and their loved ones. In this blog, I intentionally focused on the good stuff, outcomes we can look forward to while going through the bad stuff; a beacon of hope.

Elise

Elise is a former  journalist turned web developer turned event planner. She is deaf, advocates for accessible technology and ASL literacy, and very opinionated. Her passion is her family - husband Lee, sons Logan and Lucas - and her business.

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