Phenomenal Professionals: Claudia Gordon, ESQ (Attorney)

7 minutes

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR: Claudia Gordon was born hearing on the island of Jamaica. When she was eight years old, an unknown illness caused her to become deaf.

CLAUDIA GORDON THROUGH INTERPRETER: As a kid for sure, I thought something was seriously wrong with me. I was scared. I thought that my future was so limited, I had no hope.

NARRATOR: At the age of 13, Claudia moved to the United States and attended the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York. It is here that she met her first deaf role models and her self-confidence began to soar. She participated in sports and developed an interest in law. She believed having been subject to discrimination herself, that becoming an attorney might allow her to make a difference, and it did. She graduated with honors from Howard University, American University, and Washington College of Law. Today, she is a practicing attorney in Washington, DC.

CLAUDIA GORDON THROUGH INTERPRETER: I decided to choose law, become a lawyer, because I felt like a law degree would give me that necessary tool to empower people and to fight for them, and to give them a voice. And to educate them as to what their rights are, how to react, and when they face that discrimination, what do you do?

More like hidden, or not really like deaf or blind.

Oh, right.

CLAUDIA GORDON THROUGH INTERPRETER: But I went to the Lexington School for the Deaf and involved myself in everything I could. I became involved with volleyball, track. I was president of my class and president of student government, the first black student government president at Lexington ever. That's where my world really opened up because up to that point, I never really had met other deaf people. And when I came to Lexington, I saw other people who were the same as me, and they were deaf and that meant a lot to me.

I would say a shining star. Why? Because no matter what she does, she tried to do her best at it and also, she'd just shine. She was able to incorporate other people in whatever she was doing. She was able to help people and to just shine with them.

CLAUDIA GORDON THROUGH INTERPRETER: I also saw other people who were deaf, but they were teachers. They were real professional people within society having a regular life. And finally, I realized that my life did have a meaning to it. And I feel it's part of my job as a deaf person, who can communicate in their language, to go out to the people and be involved in those communities and educate them. So we have a job, me as a lawyer, not only to enforce the law and apply the law, but also to help people modify their attitude about other people with disabilities to eliminate misperceptions, and stereotypes, and stigmas. And of course, overnight society is not going to change, because you're changing attitudes, and you're changing issues, and views. But we have to work on changing people's attitudes and help people realize who's responsible for what, and help people with disabilities realize that they can participate, that they should feel equal to other people. Speaking of attitude, I was very driven by the desire to try and change people's attitudes within society, because I see how much the law itself becomes meaningless if we can't modify people's attitudes about people with disabilities.

I recently graduated from law school to become the first black deaf woman lawyer. People say, "It's amazing you have overcome your disability." What I've done is overcome the superficial barriers created by society.

CLAUDIA GORDON THROUGH INTERPRETER: Now I couldn't let anything be wasted. I had to take advantage of everything that became available to me, and through that, I had grown so much. And now that I've accepted being deaf and became proud of myself, I realized I could become anybody. And I had teachers and role models who really supported me, and encouraged me, and gave me positive reinforcement. And I really just took everything in and set goals for myself that I was determined not to stop until I had achieved those goals. One of those goals that I had set in high school was that I wanted to become a lawyer, and here I am today. Nothing good in life comes easy. Nothing is brought to you without effort, without sacrifice, without sweat, commitment, and determination. So I would say your life is what you make of it. You're given everything within yourself, you have potential. And now it's like when you have a flower garden-- you plant it. You can't just leave it, you have to tend it with water. You have to make sure the sunlight gets to it. You have to nourish the garden. And then the flowers will grow and be beautiful. The same with life, so seek mentors, receive positive reinforcement, and just commit to your goal to work hard, and you will achieve them if you believe you can.


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Claudia Gordon became deaf from an unknown illness as a child. Today she is an attorney in Washington, DC. She shares her story of becoming an advocate for people. This is a short segment from the "Achieving Goals! Phenomenal Professionals" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 7 minutes

Science Video Vocab
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8
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Episode 2
5 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8
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Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8
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Episode 4
4 minutes
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Episode 5
5 minutes
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Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 6 - 8
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Episode 7
4 minutes
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Episode 8
5 minutes
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Episode 9
3 minutes
Grade Level: 6 - 9
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Episode 10
5 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8