Thursday, June 11, 2009


"It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
--Hubert Humphrey

I attended Tuesday's graduation ceremony at Scranton State School for the Deaf. It was the last one at the school as we know it. The state is getting out of the "educating the deaf" business. The school is being turned over to the privately run Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Scranton becomes the northeast campus.

Let me tell you a bit about the Tuesday program. It was held in an un-air conditioned gymnasium. It was stiflingly hot and uncomfortable. It was the world's longest seven student commencement exercise.

Then, toward the end, it touched me. The seven graduates showed a video of their time on campus. They looked like a tight knit and happy bunch. The valedictorian later told me she loved SSSD because, unlike mainstreaming, people at the school were just like they are. That's important. It took me a while to realize how important.

The other touching moment came when each student was given a rose to present to their parents. These kids had a tougher climb than the rest of us. I'm sure their parents felt the pain as much as their children. The roses were a terrific way to say "thank you."

I easily could have blown off my high school and college graduation ceremonies. I didn't want to be there. I would have been just as happy with a mailed diploma. But, I did it for my parents. They stuck by me in high school. They paid for most of college. They picked up the slack around the house while I was in school, and playing around at the college radio station, and then working odd hours at a commercial radio station. They were proud to see me on stage. I couldn't and wouldn't take that away from them.

Let's get back to SSSD for a moment. The student population is small. The school costs a lot of money to run. SSSD might be something we can't afford.

On the other hand, these kids deserve a quality education. There's a proposal to ship secondary students off to Pittsburgh. There has to be a better way-- something to keep our kids here, not on a bus to Pittsburgh.

Remember what Hubert Humphrey said.