FEBRUARY 6, 1948
NEW YORK—I had a unique experience last night. I went to the Midtown Supper Club for dinner and found myself with the most cheerful and talkative people, nearly all of whom were completely deaf. There is a league called The League for the Hard of Hearing, but this group is starting a foundation for the totally deaf. They have an added handicap because if they never could hear, learning to talk is one of the most difficult accomplishments. They talk to each other a mile a minute without any signs or sounds. They just form the words with their lips and this has advantages because they can carry on lengthy conversations and unless you are watching, you are none the wiser!
The president of the organization is a young man of ability and charm and you see his cartoons every now and then in the subway. His name is Robert L. Swain, Junior, and he has a wife and a baby and earns a living for them. I found him difficult to understand but when he got up to introduce me, the audience understood him perfectly. On my other side, the vice-chairman, Mr. Martin L. A. Sternberg, I found easier to understand. He is studying at the School of Journalism at Columbia and expects to go into magazine work. He is getting all A's and B's in his course, Mr. Morris Ernst told me, since if you are deaf you must be better than the average. Once you have overcome the difficulty of persuading someone you can do a job and are given a chance, you must do it very well indeed to keep it.
Around the room were men and women who were really successful in difficult jobs and I could easily understand the reason because many of them have gone through schools and colleges which they term "hearing schools." Sometimes they take an added course in a school for the deaf to learn lip reading and how to talk themselves, but when they have not only done that but taken the course that the boy with good hearing takes, and come through with flying colors, they have already won a victory and they are better adjusted and more confident than the average person.
They told me last night what the advantages were when you were deaf. One—you could not hear the baby cry so you could concentrate on your work. Two—if someone did not interest you, all you had to do was not to watch their lips and you could go on with your own train of thought. Three—having lost one faculty sharpened all your others and gave you perceptions that many hearing people might not have. The only thing that was difficult from their point of view was that so many people thought there was something the matter with your mind because it took you a little while to get accustomed to the way they talked and you might not at once understand all they said. To be looked upon as a moron when you are probably extra bright and extra disciplined, must take a lot of patience. It was an enlightening and stimulating meeting.