Lots of people get giddy following even the briefest encounters with a president. But one Washington-area college student was especially elated that President Obama understood what he was saying. Or signing.
As first reported on Distriction, Stephon, a student at Prince George Community College, 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."
Another deaf student then signed to the president, "I love you." The president smiled back at her and shook her hand.
An elated Stephon later recounted his experience on YouTube via American Sign Language.
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.
Distriction later reported that the White House tweeted about the encounter from President Obama's Twitter account.
"I am proud of you," Stephon signed. "Thank you," the President signed back. OFA.BO/r49Cce
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 21, 2012
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 Obama understood basic sign language after he signed to them.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: the First Lady also knows her way around basic ASL, too: