No Complaints Here: Deaf-Blind Champ Haben Girma Graduates from Harvard Law

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Let’s take a moment to reflect, shall we? But PLEASE, let’s not discuss Trump’s most recent gaffe or ISIS’s newest target. Throw away those gosh darn Thanksgiving leftovers you keep “saving” but will find covered in mold at the back of the fridge next week, and actually give thanks for the non-edible items in your life.

When’s the last time you showed gratitude for your education, job, or physical abilities? And when’s the last time you complained about one of the above? Thought so.

So, keep this next story in mind for the next time you unload the complaint wagon on a friend or co-worker.

I first came across the story of Haben Girma after she was featured on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page. (Yes, it’s the organization founded by that Amy Poehler). Haben Girma is Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate. Now, Girma works as a public service lawyer, fighting for the rights of people with disabilities.

The White House has recognized Girma as a Champion of Change, and in July of 2015, she delivered introductory remarks for the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She spoke directly with President Obama, using a digital device that displays Braille characters.

Girma’s Etrirean refugee parents, tenacious spirit, and access to opportunities afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have all contributed to her success. She is no stranger to adversity, having grown up facing access barriers as a deaf-blind person. What was the best way for other students and friends to communicate with her? How could she form personal relationships? How the heck could she have access to her school’s cafeteria menu?

She addresses all of these points in her celebrated Ted Talk from TedxBaltimore 2014 (which has garnered over 180,000 views on Youtube).

So, what does a Harvard educated public service lawyer and bonafide hero do for fun? Salsa dance and surf, of course. Girma was taught swing and salsa by a blind dancer, and was a member of the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team. She also enjoys tandem surfing, as seen in this video.

Whether you’re thankful for a job, family member, or just grateful that it’s not snowing yet, take some inspiration from Haben Girma and reflect on the positive things in your life.

Corinne Fitamant
Corinne Fitamant is a graduate of Fordham College at Lincoln Center where she received a Bachelors degree in Communications and a minor in Theatre Arts. When she isn’t pondering issues of social justice and/or celebrity culture, she can be found playing the guitar and eating chocolate. Contact Corinne at



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