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The Inauguration of Inclusion

By SHSJC Student Mikayla Roberts, written for JAC 310, Prof. Lynn Waltz

The delivery of the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language at the Inauguration garnered nearly 2 million views on Facebook and Tik Tok.

For Pamela Iglus, it was the most emotional part of the day. The woman signing was her cousin, Georgia Fire Captain Andrea M. Hall. This was the first time an inauguration had an ASL interpreter featured during the ceremony. The hearing impaired usually see interpreters provided by news outlets on the side of the screen or use closed captioning.

When Hall began performing, Iglus burst into tears and began screaming.

“There she is,” Iglus said. “She did it for Uncle Baba,” referencing Hall’s father, who was deaf and taught her to sign before he died.

Iglus immediately posted the video on Facebook, then later posted it on Tik Tok. In the caption, Iglus wrote: “My cousin made us all proud by signing the pledge. My uncle, her dad, passed away a few years ago. He was deaf. This was the first thing he taught her."

The posting got over 1.5 million views and 14,000 comments. Most of the comments were from the deaf community.

“I was just shocked. I didn’t know it was going to do that,” said Iglus. “I was going to keep the video all to myself. I did post it to Facebook first, then, I put it on Tik Tok and put my phone down. A couple of hours later I picked it up and there were all these notifications!”

The Biden administration provided links to stream the event with interpreters shown at www.bideninaugural.org, but the website was not well advertised and went unknown by most in the deaf community. But they saw Iglus’ posts.

“They’re saying how proud they are of her… and how they appreciate her for including them,” Iglus said.

A deaf Tik Tok creator that goes by the handle ‘erika.mcg’ posted a video of her reaction to Hall’s performance. In the video, she began to cry. Her caption read: “[I] thought this day would never come.” At the end of the video, she said in sign language: “That was beautiful. We did it!”

Erika.mcg’s video also gained over 1 million views. Iglus was mentioned in the comments and posted a reaction, which appeared side-by-side with Erika’s post. Iglus captioned the video, “She has me crying all over again.”

Iglus said she thinks sign language should have been included in past inaugurations.

“Of course, we see interpreters elsewhere, like at games and things like that. But, to have someone deliver the Pledge of Allegiance through ASL? This should’ve been done a long, long time ago, and it should be ongoing from here on out,” she said.

Capt. Hall gave a special shout out to her cousin Iglus for posting the video. She posted on Facebook that she was told the video “did numbers,” saying she was surprised that Iglus’ post got so many views.

“That is so ridiculous!” Hall wrote to her cousin, thanking her for the post. “Thank you, Pam, I appreciate it.”

Note: Due to pandemic conditions students were given permission to interview family members.