Congratulations, Dr. Robert Davila! I first met Dr. Robert Davila in 1978 when he was acting dean of MSSD and my parents and I came to Washington, D.C. for an interview at MSSD. I can't remember every detail, but I recall that upon our visit to his office, Dr. Davila inquired whether I was Latino or Italian. (Throughout my life so many people thought I looked either Italian or Greek! Which was funny, because at my first impression of him I thought he was Italian! I wasn't exposed to many Mexican-Americans in the East when I was a child.) When I replied that I was part Latino, he greeted me by signing a few Spanish words. That impressed me and my parents. (More on my South American background in the coming next post) Dr. Davila sure knew how to make one feel welcome!
One blogger compared Dr. Davila and the outgoing President IKJ by how they greeted people after Dr. Davila's speech. Based on my personal experience in meeting each man, I would agree with his analysis. The only time when I met IKJ was at a private social function (a friend's birthday party, years ago), I greeted him and introduced myself. He acknowledged me with a nod (like one of my cartoon characters New York Elvis's silent, nonchalant nod) and shook my hand. It was a light, formal handshake...not the tight, warm kind you'd expect. From him I felt a polite aloofness. We didn't converse beyond this point.
Dr. Davila, on the other hand, radiated warmth. He and I have conversed several times during the times I was a MSSD student and other times as a professional. As a Hispanic-American whose father was born in Europe and spoke three languages, I felt a connection with him. Although I was born in the United States and I am a full U.S. citizen, technically I am a citizen of two countries (Sweden and Chile). My father, who was born in Sweden to my American grandfather and Chilean grandmother, was automatically a Swedish citizen. But he shuffled around to several countries as he grew up and my grandfather the diplomat was assigned different posts.
According to Chilean law nationality may be passed to the individual through his grandmother. The U.S., however, does not recognize dual nationality. Nevertheless, in a way I was an international student. Spanish is my third language, next to ASL and English . MSSD at my time had several international students. One student, a boy, came from Ethiopia. Another student, a girl, originated from Cuba and moved to Florida with her family. There was this exchange student from Germany, a girl. There were many students from Puerto Rico, too.
If Dr. Davila makes you feel welcome as he did when I first came to MSSD, this is the kind of man you want for President.
Dr. Davila, in my view, personifies international goodwill in his grace and manner. I think his presence at Gallaudet University will help to bring attention to issues that concern students of color, including deaf and hard of hearing Hispanic Americans, and international students. I think his leadership will bring about many positive changes that we hope to see on campus. I also hope that he will see to that those international students who were involved in the protests may have a chance to extend their stay in the U.S. without fear of reprisals. After all, we should make them feel welcome, like this is su casa. I don't know what the reactions of other deaf people in San Diego (Dr. Davila's hometown) are to the news of his new post as Interim President...the news had just broken out yesterday...but I am certain that they are as elated as I am and you are! Especially those who are Mexican-American or from Mexico. Some of you may don't know how much this news of the first deaf Mexican-American to be Interim President of Gallaudet University means to us. This is time for joyous celebrations, indeed! Bob, we are PROUD of you! From the bottom of our hearts we say - CONGRATULATIONS! And in the language of our countries...¡FELICATICIONES!