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Rep. Tom Cole to Speak at Commencement

 April 25, 2019

Dear Campus Community:

Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma will speak at Commencement on May 17. Rep. Cole has represented the Fourth District of Oklahoma since 2003 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and one of four Native Americans in Congress. He holds a Ph.D. in British history from the University of Oklahoma, and taught there before entering politics. His career as an educator emphasized the power of learning and the role it plays in molding meaningful careers and building good citizenship and pride in one’s community.

Rep. Cole’s passion for providing the opportunity to learn extends from early childhood through adulthood. He was a founding co-chair of the Congressional Pre-K Caucus, which fosters awareness of the value of early learning and ensures its accessibility to all children. As you know, we at Gallaudet have a vested interest in early intervention, robust bilingual language acquisition, and early childhood education.

One significant experience for Rep. Cole is how he saw the parallels in experience between Native American children with early language acquisition provided with their native language and the English language, and between deaf children, with English and sign language. He believes deaf children should be provided with both sign language and English languages (bilingual). Seeing the two similar experiences, he holds a strong link with Gallaudet University for that reason.

Rep. Cole also sees the importance of vocational and technical education as vital components of the American educational system, and has been a long-standing supporter of federal funding for these training programs for both youth and adults.

During his time in Congress, Rep. Cole has served as both Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. That is the committee where he supports deaf education. Just two weeks ago, Cole co-sponsored a bill to reauthorize the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC).

Our Relationship with Congress

Gallaudet and Congress have shared a connection, beginning in 1864 when Gallaudet was founded. Despite the political spectrum, from Republicans to Democrats, different members of Congress have always supported our mission towards educating deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind students through the appropriations process. This support across the spectrum is vital to the vibrancy and health of Gallaudet, in the past and in the future. We are proud that we can pull people from different beliefs and work together with them to support Gallaudet and our community, with opportunities to learn, discover, research, and influence the world. As president of Gallaudet University, one of my responsibilities is to meet with various members of Congress and share the Gallaudet story.

I have had the good fortune to meet with Rep. Cole on more than one occasion. He is very supportive of Gallaudet and our mission. He believes in the importance of Gallaudet to our nation, to thrive.

Commencement Speaker Selection

Inviting a commencement speaker is both an art and a science. Speaker selections, especially of prominent leaders in government and industry, are inherently political. Above all, a university must allow all views to be shared freely, and all beliefs to be discussed respectfully. This allows the exchange of ideas to flourish.

Gallaudet's excellence, and, indeed, its survival, depends on respecting, honoring and embracing diversity in all its forms. We seek to allow all views to be aired openly and respectfully. This is the hallmark of our academic community, and it is what makes us a university.

We seek greater community input into our Commencement speaker selections. In particular, we want to involve our graduating students in the selection process. This fall, we will begin to develop a plan for more intentionally including our community in speaker selection.

Once again, we look forward to Commencement!

Roberta J. Cordano

Posted by Andrew Greenman | Posted April 25, 2019 at 5:46 PM


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002