Listening to America in Albuquerque

The Huffington Post’s “Listen to America” Bus Tour made its way from Tucson, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the twenty-second of twenty-five stops on its cross-country road trip to listen to Americans share their personal stories and dreams for the country. Albuquerque is the most populous city in the state of New Mexico and the 32nd-largest city in the United States. Located near the Rio Grande river and surrounded by vast mountain ranges, including the Sandia Mountains towards the east, Albuquerque provides stunning scenery of its beautiful natural surroundings.

The “Listen To America” event took place at The Albuquerque Sign Language Academy, first allotting interview times for attendees, their families, and faculty of the school and later opening up the opportunity to the general public. The Albuquerque Sign Language Academy is run by founder and Executive Director, Raphael Martinez, along with a talented team of teachers and administrators serving students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. The students at the academy were filled with energy, passionate about learning, and nothing short of inspiring. Many of the students were deaf themselves, while others attended the academy and learned sign language in order to communicate with a deaf parent, caretaker, sibling, or other family members.

During our visit, the students put on a performance for the “Listen To America” staff in order to tell us more about the school and their lives. One of the students read a letter to her mother that was particularly moving. With her deaf mother sitting in front of her, this primary school student spoke about her admiration for her mother while signing along so that her mom and the other students could follow. She told her mom that she was proud to be her daughter and that she loved her for who she was – causing the entire audience, including myself, to become watery-eyed.

The conversations with the students of the academy and the people of Albuquerque were consistent with the ideals of treating all others with respect no matter the differences among people. The students and families emphasized their desire for kindness between those who disagree, or are different from one another in a multitude of ways. Those who were deaf or otherwise required special needs expressed the same diversity of interests, personalities, and friendships of those who were not. The comradery of the students made evident that the differences between them did not divide, but instead unite them. It was very clear to everyone in attendance that the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy is a special place that has positively transformed the lives of its attendees and their families.

Without a doubt, some of the simplest yet most important lessons in life can be taught to us by children.  

The National Institute for Civil Discourse, housed within The University of Arizona College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, and Huffington Post are partnering to do a bus tour of 25 cities to Listen to America. At the height of fake news, distrust in the media, political polarization, and demonization of those with different viewpoints, it’s time for the media to listen to America, and it’s time for Americans to listen to each other.

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