Aug 11 2020

Why I Contribute to AG Bell: John Stanton

John Stanton (right) and his father, Edwin Stanton (left), receiving the Honors of Association Award at the 2014 AG Bell Association Awards.

Written By: Rin-rin Yu and John Stanton

John Stanton serves on AG Bell’s Board of Directors. As a lawyer, he has advocated for AG Bell in a variety of legal matters. He served as AG Bell’s counsel in court cases impacting the rights of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as more generally for people with disabilities. He has filed papers with regulatory boards on behalf of AG Bell and spoken with legislators on issues impacting AG Bell’s membership. Stanton has also served as AG Bell’s liaison to other organizations for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. As someone whose hearing loss started as a child, Stanton and his family have been consistent supporters of AG Bell, and Stanton expanded that support recently by contributing to the Joseph Rosenstein Scholarship Fund. Here, he talks about his experiences with AG Bell, and why he gives back.


Joe Rosenstein was a wonderful man who dedicated his life to accessibility and education of people who were deaf and hard of hearing. He was also a strong supporter of AG Bell. He donated countless volunteer hours to support AG Bell’s mission and/or provide interpreting services to people who were deaf and hard of hearing. He also coordinated interpreting services at the DC Courts.

I am an aficionado of history of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. When I come across a story about a successful person from the past who was also deaf or hard of hearing, I think “Wow, how did this person do it?”  And one answer is usually “probably with assistance from people like Joe.”

Children who are deaf and hard of hearing will always face challenges. However, there is no question that today’s children have it easier than I did. And there is no question that I had it easier than children supported by AG Bell in generations past.

I became profoundly deaf when I was four years old. After it became clear that my hearing loss was permanent, my parents opted for Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) instruction. I grew up speaking and lipreading. My residual hearing collapsed to essentially zero when I was 30 years old, and I got a cochlear implant (CI) after that.

I attended regular schools throughout my career, always being the first student—or at least the first student in recent memory—who was deaf or hard of hearing. When I was a student at Georgetown Law School, I met Mike Tecklenburg, AG Bell’s president at the time, and also a lawyer who was deaf or hard of hearing. Mike, in turn, invited me to several AG Bell events. I’ve enjoyed membership in AG Bell immensely and have made many, many good friends over the years.

AG Bell has a long history of advocating for mainstreaming of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. True, being deaf and mainstreaming was extraordinarily difficult 100 years ago. But eventually, legal protections and technology caught up with the needs of these children. And thanks to the infrastructures set by AG Bell’s philosophies, there are all types of opportunities for children who are deaf and hard of hearing to succeed today that didn’t exist generations ago.

For example, when the CI was invented, there was significant opposition from other well-meaning but misguided advocacy groups for people who were deaf and hard of hearing. AG Bell was one of the few groups that encouraged the development of the CI. Today, the opposition to the CI has largely dissipated. If you enjoy your CI, you can thank AG Bell for that. AG Bell has also been at the forefront of advocating for CART interpreting and movie captioning.

Top: John Stanton (left) and former AG Bell President Meredith Sugar (right) Bottom: John Stanton and two of his daughters

Last winter, I coached my daughter’s third grade basketball team. We had a game against a team with a player whose parents were deaf. I’m not sure if the girl herself was deaf, but her parents were using sign language to communicate with her and each other. The mother was recording the game on her phone, and the father was giving his daughter instruction in sign language from the stands every chance he got. He looked like he knew a lot about basketball. I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason that he wasn’t the coach of the team was because he wouldn’t be able to communicate with the rest of the players without an interpreter. Of course, communicating with players, referees, other coaches, etc. was not an issue for me, and I have AG Bell’s philosophies and advocacy to thank for that.

AG Bell is dedicated to continuing that progress to ensure that children who are deaf and hard of hearing will have the same opportunities as everyone else. Scholarships are a big part of those efforts. I’m on the AG Bell law school scholarship committee. We get letters from awardees thanking us profusely for the scholarship. In some cases, their families definitely need the financial assistance. In other cases, they are simply grateful for the recognition and support.

Joe saw a lot of progress for people who were deaf and hard of hearing in his lifetime. He was immensely committed to making sure that children with hearing loss received the same access to education as children with typical hearing. He was a proud supporter of AG Bell’s Leadership Opportunities for Teens program (LOFT) because of his great hopes for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and his legacy continues to impact their future thanks to the Joseph Rosenstein Scholarship Fund. It’s important that organizations like AG Bell continue that progress so today’s children who are deaf and hard of hearing can learn, thrive and live a life without limits.

To make your gift to the Joseph Rosenstein Scholarship Fund and support students who are deaf and hard of hearing, please visit the AG Bell website.