MSSD students celebrate “March on Washington” with First Lady Michelle Obama
On August 27, 2013, five students from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) attended a movie screening at the White House. This event was hosted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
This visit was made possible by deaf attorney Claudia Gordon, who is an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement and advises President Obama on disability issues. Ms. Gordon is also a trustee at Gallaudet University.
The film shown was "The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights," a documentary on activist Whitney Young's relentless campaign for equality over three presidential administrations in the 1960s. The screening was closed captioned.
The students who attended were Ethan Ettienne, Melanie Hubbard, Isabella Rosa, Kerie Scurry-Burns, and Matthew Thompson. Upon their arrival the White House, they walked to the South Court Auditorium to meet Ms. Gordon, who escorted them inside.
The event featured speeches from various White House officials and included an appearance by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. "I was so shocked and excited. I had never thought I would have the opportunity to meet her," said Hubbard, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee. "The entire experience was inspirational."
Mrs. Obama talked about the importance of education and of taking every opportunity available. "Barack Obama at your age didn't know he was going to be President of the United States -- would have bet money that he wouldn't. I never thought I'd be the First Lady of the United States. But let me tell you something, we prepared ourselves -- as Whitney Young did, as Dr. King did. And that meant going to school every day, doing your homework every day, showing up every single day and putting your best into whatever you're doing."
Watching "Powerbroker" was a poignant learning experience for Ethan Ettienne, a senior from Lanham, Maryland. "I gained a deeper understanding of the racism that faced black America in the 1960s and how fortunate I am to have it differently now. I learned something new," said Ettienne.
The students also met Leah Katz-Hernandez, who like Ms. Gordon is deaf and works in the White House in the Executive Office of the President. "I hadn't known that there were deaf people in the White House, that it was achievable. I was excited to find out that they both also attended a school for the deaf," said Isabella Rosa, a senior from Rochester, New York. "These two women showed us that we were represented in the White House and that my friends and I could accomplish the same if we put our minds to it."