Government & Politics

The Seat of Power

Each day, Washington, DC makes political headlines. Watch it for yourself in a tour of the Capitol... the Supreme Court... or the White House. Visit the Washington Post or bureaus of the major networks to see how reporters take you behind the headlines. Get a glimpse of the inner-workings of our government from this unique vantage point.

The White House

Since Abraham Lincoln signed the act of Congress authorizing the establishment of the college-level program at the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf...now known as Gallaudet University, each succeeding President of the United States has been the Patron of Gallaudet. Diplomas awarded to Gallaudet graduates are also signed by the U.S. President. Presidents have visited the campus and/or participated in commencement activities.

Many presidents have invited representatives of Gallaudet's administration, faculty, and student body to special events at the White House. Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet was a frequent White House visitor and dinner guest.

President Calvin Coolidge's wife, Grace (1879-1957) taught at the Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Northhampton, MA. She was familiar with fingerspelling. The Coolidges sometimes fingerspelled private messages to each other when they were out at parties or meetings.

U.S. Presidents Who Visited Gallaudet

William Jefferson Clinton was the Commencement speaker on May 13, 1994 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Jimmy Carter - Although Carter never visited the campus during his four-year term as president, he did so 11 years after he left office. He and his wife, Rosalynn began their involvement with the Habitat for Humanity International in 1984 and their work brought them to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to build and rehab homes. Approximately 1,000 people volunteered, including the Carters who were among the 450 volunteers who stayed on the Gallaudet campus June 14-20, 1992.

Lyndon B. Johnson June 13, 1966 - the day of the wildest surprise sprung on the unsuspecting graduating class of 1966. Johnson showed up unannounced on Graduation Day and caught everyone by surprise, thus making the celebratory event even more festive with this great send-off. This was his second visit. The first one being two years earlier on June 6, 1964, during Gallaudet's Centennial banquet where he appeared briefly to give a short speech and to present the President's Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped Award for 1964 to Gallaudet College.

Theodore Roosevelt Presided over Commencement (Presentation) Day program - May, 1906.

Benjamin Harrison May, 1889 - attended Presentation Day exercises June 2, 1889 - President Harrison was present for the unveiling of the Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet statute along with 450 other people, including Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

Grover Cleveland Attended Presentation Day exercises - May 6, 1885

Chester A. Arthur President and Mrs. Chester A. Arthur were guests of the College during which time they toured the entire institution along with other distinguished government officials. - Feb. 23, 1882

James A. Garfield (1831-1881), a member of Congress and 20th President of the United States, was a staunch supporter of a liberal arts education for the students at Gallaudet. From 1865 to 1880, he took a leading role in Congress toward maintaining and enlarging the College. In May 1881, President Garfield attended Presentation Day exercises in Chapel Hall and delivered what is known to have been his last public address before he was assassinated. It is also said that this was the only social function outside the White House President Garfield attended during his short tenure as President of the United States.

Rutherford B. Hayes attended Presentation Day (Commencement) exercises as Patron Ex-Officio and delivered the address on April 11, 1877. The following year on Feb. 16, 1878, Hayes and his wife attended the dedication ceremonies of College Hall. Mrs. Hayes initiated the building by lighting the fireplace in Room 25, on the third floor, at that time the room of Professor Amos G. Draper. 1879, 1880 - President Hayes attended Presentation Day exercises both years.

Ulysses S. Grant was first U.S. President to preside over Presentation Day (Commencement) exercises at Gallaudet and to confer collegiate degrees to Gallaudet's first five college graduates (?) on June 30, 1870. Grant also made a visit to the campus on January 29, 1871 to participate in the dedication ceremony of Chapel Hall.

Library of Congress

The ceiling of the first floor of the Library of Congress on the north side, near the west entrance, contains markers in memory of famous American educators. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is one of them.

Deaf President Now

In March 1988, Gallaudet University experienced a watershed event that led to the appointment of the University's first deaf president, Dr. I. King Jordan. Since then, Deaf President Now (DPN) has become synonymous with unity, leadership, and success for deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by President George Bush on July 26, 1990 in a ceremony on the White House lawn witnessed by thousands of disability rights activists. The law was the most sweeping disability rights legislation in history, for the first time bringing full legal citizenship to Americans with disabilities. Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan assisted with the passage of this bill. He was a lead witness in support of the ADA during a joint session of Congress and delivered significant testimony in Congress and across the country during the deliberations of this bill.

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