A Momentous Date

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Emilio Alonso-Mendoza summerDear Alexander Graham Bell Community,

When I'm at work at the Volta Bureau, I'm often struck by the spirit of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. His presence on the grounds of his old library and workspace fills my mind with inspiration for the mission I've undertaken here at his association. Today, September 16, 2015, marks the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard and Hearing.

At the time of its founding, a group of teachers of the deaf incorporated it under the name of The American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf and named Dr. Bell its first president. This is the origin of our association, of our community. However, I see the spirit of Dr. Bell constantly pushing the boundaries of what a community like ours could accomplish. This stems from his inventive mind and never-ending work to improve the lives of children who are deaf. We are not just an association of teachers of the deaf 125 years in the making, but we are also a close group of families brought together in the name of making a better future for children and for adults with hearing loss. To hear and speak is to become a part of the larger world, to share in the great treasures of sound, music and a multitude of languages that would be otherwise inaccessible. 

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in his study in DC
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in his study in Washington, D.C.
c. 1880s.

Dr. Bell's dream for children who are deaf and hard of hearing is being realized each day that we spread the word to parents about the world of opportunities available through listening and spoken language. My drive as leader of this organization is to further this mission as best I can, and my focus is on moving our organization on a trajectory that is always relevant to the people we serve, using the best faculties we have available to us. This includes moving AG Bell toward a more donor-centric model, focusing closely on fundraising for our programs and services. Succeeding in this will result in funding more scholarships and financial aid, strengthening programs like Leadership Opportunities for Teens (LOFT), and providing more resources for parents, professionals and adults with hearing loss. 

This model also moves us towards a closer and more vibrant relationship with our membership, as we prioritize feedback and communication with you. You help us shape and determine the outlook of our organization and the services we provide you. This is why I make myself freely available by email and available via AG Bell's main phone number. Our staff respond to many questions daily about hearing loss, offering personalized assistance for parents, adults and families. In communicating with us, you help bring us closer to our goal of advancing listening and spoken language as the primary option for children who are deaf and hard hearing.

1900s image in front of the Volta Bureau
Dr. Bell's son-in-law, David Fairchild, fourth from left, and
Dr. Bell, third from right, with others in front of the Volta Bureau,
Washington, D.C. c. 1900s.

Today marks the beginning of a three-year period in which AG Bell will be celebrating 125 years of existence. We celebrate the association this year and through 2018, which will mark the 125th anniversary of the Volta Bureau building. The Volta Bureau is the site of our national headquarters, originally built by Dr. Bell as a library and collection of resources relating to deafness and the use of speech. It was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Dr. Bell built the Volta Bureau using funds he was awarded in recognition of his inventions and with the help of his father who was a world-renowned elocutionist. In the midst of all his inventions, wealth and fame, Dr. Bell never wavered from his mission as a teacher of the deaf.

This day represents the beginning of a great celebration of our organization's heritage. As I sit in the garden of the Volta Bureau and write this message to you, I hope that you, too, find the inspiration of Dr. Bell reaching out to you. Whether you are an impassioned teacher of the deaf as he was, a parent of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, or an adult with hearing loss, his words and his lasting legacy are with you. They rest here, in his association, and in his bureau.

Until next week,

Emilio Alonso-Mendoza



A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with - a man is what he makes of himself.
- Dr. Alexander Graham Bell