President Barack Obama is a man of many talents, and apparently American Sign Language is one of them. President Obama took Stephon Williams, a 26-year-old student from Prince George’s Community College, by surprise last week by speaking to him in sign language.
As first reported on Distriction, Stephon Williams was standing in line after an event on energy policy with President Obama and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, waiting for a chance to shake hands with the president.
As the president was shaking hands and making his way through the crowd, he met up with Stephon, who was born deaf. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed to the president. Not missing a beat, President Obama signed back: “Thank you” (check the video above.)
Soon afterward, another deaf student signed to Barack Obama, “I love you.” The smiling President then shakes her hand. An elated Stephon later recounted his experience on YouTube via American Sign Language.
Hello, I would love to share my experience; something that I will not forget for rest of my life. Today was a special day for me, and I was preparing for it. It was announced yesterday, March 14, for everyone to receive tickets to see none other than the President of the United States, Barack Obama!
When I got ready to get up the morning at 7 am, I did not rush and took my time since the admission started at 8:30 am. I ate some breakfast and got onto the train to get to Prince George’s Community College. When I got there, there was such a long line and I got so worried that I wouldn’t get a good seat to be able to see my interpreter! How was it possible for me to understand what Obama had to say?!
I decided to let go of my nerves and went with the flow. I waited in line to go through security. Security was almost like security at the airport. It was the first time for me to experience that kind of security outside an airport. Of course, I have been to airports numerous times, but it was my first time to have that kind of experience on my college campus.
I was not used to it. I saw the actual Secret Service, and you could feel how serious and strict they were, much different than dealing with county and even state police! You could tell they were not playing around.
When I got in, I took many videos. What amazed me is that it took two hours to make it just right before Obama started. I did not realize how great of seats there were for us deaf people. Right front of Obama. I sat in VIP with the Governor Martin O’Malley and many other important people.
So, it started at about 11. Obama was right front of me. I was ready to jump up and walk toward him and shake his hand. Could you imagine how the Secret Service would’ve responded? When I watched Obama give his speech on the stage I thought to myself, “No way, Obama is not standing right in front of me! Wow!”
If you want to know more about what Obama’s speech was about, you can find out online. I was close enough to touch Martin O’Malley on his shoulder but I didn’t want to bother him. I regret I could have done better holding my camera while talking to Obama.
The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed “I am proud of you,” and his response was “Thank u” in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing…I was just speechless.
Right after he thanked me, he smiled at another deaf lady who signed “I love you.” When I shook his hand it did not feel like he was superior to me. He was just a humble man. I am just impressed by him and know that he will have my vote and he will win second term without a doubt. Yeah, I feel safe to have him for another term.
However, this isn’t the first time President Obama has used sign language on the campaign trail. In 2008, several deaf bloggers noted that then-Senator Barack Obama understood basic sign language after he signed to them.