Marlee Matlin is an award winning actress from Illinois who just happens to be deaf. Marlee first stepped on the scene in 1986 with a major role in Children of a Lesser God. Since then she has appeared in several movies and shows, including ABC Family’s ground breaking TV drama Switched at Birth.
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 Matlin spoke on Central’s campus. Not only did those involved in the ASL programs learn a lot, but also the regular students and community members that attended increased their awareness of deaf culture. I learned so much from her speech. I was able to critically think about deaf culture and experience another point of view. My hearing friends who aren’t involved in the ASL program also attended her speech. They left her speech interested in deaf culture and full of questions to ask. I believe her appearance on campus brought a lot of awareness to interacting with deaf culture.
She was such an inspiring woman. My favorite part of her speech was her short story towards the end. She shared a story about a king who owned the most perfect diamond. He loved it so much that he treated it like a child. One night while cradling it in his sleep he accidently dropped it. The fall left a blemish on his beautiful diamond. A long thin spindling crack extended from the bottom of the diamond to the top. He was heart broken. Someone told the king they had the ability to fix his precious treasure. A week later the servant brought back the diamond. Upon inspecting his prize, the king noticed the diamond was still cracked. The servant showed the king the bottom of the diamond. At that spot the servant had carved a beautiful rose. He then said to the king “Now the most beautiful diamond has the most beautiful rose on it.” I loved being reminded to take what you are given and make it even more wonderful. We make the world we live in either wonderful or a living nightmare.
Matlin truly is the loudest person in the room. She gives off energy of pure joy and excitement. She obviously loves life. Matlin never let her “disability” (a word she doesn’t like to use) stand in the way of her dreams. She also hated being treated differently but her family always had an answer for everything. The sign in her neighborhood about the deaf kids was because she was special; no one else had their own sign. If someone picked on her voice, it was because she had the accent of her super secret spy parents. One of Matlin’s biggest inspirations is Henry Winkler. He stood behind her in all of her endeavors. He told her that “You can be whatever you want to be” at a conference when she was a young child.
During the evening Q&A portion a mother asked a question that stumped Matlin. She wondered about what advice she gave her daughters as they were growing up. Matlin gave some great advice for present and future mothers. She supports the idea of loving yourself. Matlin is truly an inspiration. She inspires other to accept themselves, “disabilities” and all. She is a very personable woman. The evening session wasn’t quite as personal as the afternoon session. I also attended the Q&A during the afternoon. That’s when we learned personal stories and she joked around more. During that session we also got to learn a little about Jack, her interpreter. They work well together and are obviously best friends. That’s where I learned she is still working to improve herself. She answered a question saying, “I still don’t know what I want to be.” She told the audience to never stop tasting new things. Life is about new experiences. I would’ve loved to sit down with her and talk about life. She is incredibly open-minded and independent, two things I really admire.
During the afternoon session Matlin asked the audience a question. She wondered if using her male interpreter Jack was weird. Jack interpreting for her gives Matlin a male voice to the hearing community, which to some may seem strange. I think it gives her situation uniqueness. I personally think it’s funny and represents how unique she truly is.