Archive for May, 2006

Whole Foods Market, Chuck E. Cheese and Sushi Bar… Wow!

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006


I’m in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania for 3 days to help evaluate TDI’s newly developed course for emergency responders and deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, deaf blind and other consumers. The workshop is HIGHLY informative and effective because its delivered to both consumers and professional "first responders", i.e., firefighters, EMT, police and their leaders. I highly recommend everyone to take this training when its made publicly available some time after the final review by Department of Homeland Security. You can find more information at TDI’s CEPIN web site.

 Anyway, I was salivating for something sweet and I remembered there was a Whole Foods Market near my hotel so I drove there. And I found my DREAM sequence of stores! There was Whole Foods Market, then a Chuck E. Cheese and a Sushi Bar after that! You can’t beat that combination, nosireee! Drop the kids off then go eat sushi and pick up fresh items from WF Market. Ok, ok, I wouldn’t be so irresponsible as to drop my kids off completely by themselves. That’s what grandmas are for. Say, M.E…. my kids need more quality time with their nana…


Why South Dakota?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

I recently posted this in discussion forum, and I thought it was worth repeating here.


I was alerted to this site recently, and I have read all replies to this topic thread. I thought this was a very good discussion. I wasn’t sure if I should jump in and give some answers or at least explain our perspective on why we are building Laurent. I’ll jump in anyway!

[Quick note: Yes, I am deaf. My wife is deaf and I have 4 deaf children. I have deaf parents and my mother’s parents are deaf. My partner is also my mother-in-law and she’s hearing and signs well enough to be understood. :-) ]

Our most frequently asked questions are: Why on earth did we choose South Dakota?! Why are we isolating ourselves from rest of the world?

I’ll address isolation issue first.

We have a big problem in America (and worldwide). We are isolated today, right this minute. We are undereducated. We are under employed.

Statistic #1: Estimated 25% of world population receives no education. World Federation of the Deaf estimates 80% of the world deaf/hh kids receive no education.

Statisitc #2: Out of 500,000 public elected officials (city, county, region, state and federal) in this Country, we have ZERO known deaf/hh signer holding an elected public office. If we are to "guess" that there’s at least 250,000 deaf/hh signers living in this country, then you extrapolate that with American population (290M), you get a number of approximately 480 elected officials that should be deaf/hh signers. We have zero.

Statistic #3: Before enacting Americans with Disabilities Act, 65% of disabled people were unemployed. Today, 16 years later, 67% are still unemployed.

Statisitc #4: Deaf employees in federal gov’t — in lower pay scale (GS1-GS7), we are in line with other disabilities. However, when you go over GS8 to GS15, we drop to just "barely" above people with mental retardation. And there’s only one known deaf person who ever made SES (Senior Executive Service) and that’s Robert Davila, former Assistant Secretary to Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS).

I can go on and on. Bottom line, we are isolated, undereducated and underemployed. Today. In "mainstream" America. Is it because as a group we’re dumb? Mentally incapable? No.

Part of this can be explained largely as "quality of life" issues. Who wants to sit on a City Council with 6 other members for hours at a time, yet have all information "filtered" through one or two interpreters. Miss out on the side chats, backroom dealings and so on. Fun? Enjoyable? No! Smart deaf/hh signers just don’t bother. They stay in areas where they know they will enjoy life to the fullest. Can we do it? Sure, but it won’t be fun. So why do it?

Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. This is important… pursuit of happiness. So I want to nip this in the bud — if anyone says, "Boo hoo, life is hard. Just go and do it." True, yet there are limits to our endurance and patience.

We are building Laurent in McCook County, South Dakota to ensure maximum political influence and voice on every level — city, county and state. Right population size of the county (5,900 people) and state (760,000) enables us to be at the table — full time. Only few other states have lower or similar population profile: North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska. New Mexico is fairly low-populated state, but their water issues scares me. There does seem to be severe water shortages in areas and may get worse over the time.

Other factor in choosing South Dakota is the "deaf-friendliness". CSD is the world’s largest non-profit organization run by the deaf and is fairly well known in South Dakota. We also have Lt. Governor who is CODA. Yes, Rochester, NY; Fremont, CA; Metro Washington DC area; and a couple of others do meet the "deaf friendliness quotient". They just do not meet the critical criteria — political participation on all levels. And, Fremont… yikes, who can live there but pay $100,000 for a closet space?

For years, people told Ben Soukup that he has to move to other state in order to recruit people to live/work for CSD. Well, CSD was able to recruit so many good people (with exception of those with deaf children… SDSD sucks. It’s hard sell — they have wonderful elementary school teachers, rated by Steve Nover and Eddy Laird as one the best in the country for bilingual education, yet the school has 50 students.) Many families moved to Sioux Falls. And guess what? Many of them will tell you they LOVE it there.

Now it is unfortunate that CSD is going through one of the most difficult times in their history and many people have been laid off. A quite few of them will probably leave Sioux Falls in search for jobs.

My point here is that… people WILL move anywhere when they see the benefits: better (and fully integrated) public school education for both deaf and hearing, jobs in new fields never before made available, new business opportunities (your own McDonald’s franchise in fully sign language accessible environment for example), quality of homes, quality of community that’s hard to measure — being able to communicate with your local postmaster, store cashier or barber, and so on. Initially, we expect few families to move to Laurent and as time goes on, the domino effect — especially after people SEE the town being built (and it will be beautiful… none of that cookie cutter crap you see in new developments today).

And, oh yes, speech will also be taught at Laurent public school district. The school will be fully bilingual: ASL and English. Best part about this is that I can hope my 4 kids will have many hearing and deaf friends that can walk and bike to the school. By having hearing peers who can sign fluently, my kids would be more comfortable — hopefully — in asking them how to speak certain words and have real motivation to learn speech. It can be a great tool, but there’s no way that "speech" = intelligence.

And most importantly, we are building Laurent right next to I-90 in order to capture travelers and tourists as well as local business — we are basically building a town for the WHOLE WORLD to see, come and play with us. Just like visiting France despite not being able to speak French. Why? Because you want to experience culture, arts, language, food, architecture and so on! So it will be with Laurent, South Dakota.

Join us. Support us. Visit us. Vacation with us. Best of all, donate online if you can. :-)

Marvin Miller
The Laurent Institute

Sunset at Laurent, S.D.

Sunday, May 14th, 2006


A sunset with my son, Theo, and his friend, Travis at the site of future town of Laurent, South Dakota.


New Web Site for Gallaudet Protest

Friday, May 12th, 2006

I wanted to quickly let y’all know that there’s new web site set up by faculty, staff, students and alumni concerning the protest at Gallaudet University.

Monique and I are in St. Louis, MO now, resting up before tonight’s presentation at St. Louis Community College. It’s good to be here. On our flight from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis, I sat next to Ben Soukup, CEO of CSD and it was really nice to be able to talk with him. I am concerned for him and his team at CSD as they undergo a difficult time now, not to mention the employees and their families that have been recently laid off. I hope they will weather this and come out stronger and wiser. Some people may wonder, “How do I support one of world’s largest deaf-run non-profit organization?” You could by using their video relay service at

Ben mentioned that he was flying to Gallaudet for Board of Trustees meeting, and I shared with him my hope for a healing, positive resolution. I have high respect for Dr. I. King Jordan, and I also have high respect for many of the people behind the protest. I do believe they have a valid point regarding the search process being flawed from the get go.


A Brewing Storm at Gallaudet University

Friday, May 5th, 2006

A good number of students, faculty and community members are objecting to the apparent unfairness in the process of selecting the next president of Gallaudet University, Jane Kelleher Fernandes.

I am saddened that the presidential search process was allowed to press forward despite warning signs and serious grumbling from within and outside of campus community prior to that. This has resulted in a situation that has unnecessarily hurt Jane Fernandes and her chances of governing Gallaudet in a constructive fashion for years to come.

I have met her and I like her. I do not know enough about her to pass a judgement on whether she’s the best person to lead Gallaudet. I also have tremendous respect for other candidates - Ron Stern of New Mexico, Steve Weiner of Gallaudet. I also was surprised that Dr. Glenn Anderson and a couple others did not make it in the final interview round.

The divide in the community is showing. And it hurts everyone. I sincerely hope that the leadership at Gallaudet, especially Dr. I. King Jordan, will step up to the plate and genuinely LISTEN and address the concerns in an open, honest fashion and bring this to a posititve resolution.

If there are any silver lining to be found in this, hopefully the whole experience would be painful yet leads to new and healthier — and serious — dialogue about diversity, audism and the future of Gallaudet’s role in the world’s deaf and signing community.

From DeafWeekly:

A number of other websites can help keep you filled in on the reaction to Gallaudet’s selection of Jane Fernandes as its next president: – The university’s official site, where, among other things, you can read the letters of application and resumes of the three finalists and see who is on the board of trustees. –, an uncensored site not sanctioned by the university. – "The Gallaudet community for a fair Presidential selection." – a petition site that has attracted more than 2,000 signatures to reopen the presidential search process. – Xanga blog with detailed on-the-scene reportage. – "Observe But Do Not Interfere," Ricky Taylor’s blog with information and comments about the protest. [Warning: Profanity] – a detailed account of Jane Fernandes’ April 26 Open Forum at Gallaudet University. – "Trimming the Fern," an "admittedly biased" student perspective on Jane Fernandes. – pictures from the protest.