ARPC employee interprets for President Obama

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  • By Mike Molina
  • Editor
Twenty-eight years ago, opportunity and initiative led Glory Randolph to begin learning sign language. 

In 1980, she was a technician at the Air Reserve Personnel Center here working in the microfilm department when she was asked to train two deaf employees. With no experience training the deaf, she wrote everything to them, but communication was still difficult. 

"Writing things down for the deaf isn't the same as writing for someone who can hear," she said. "For example, there's no word in sign language for 'place' or to 'place something', it's just 'move.'" 

That's when she asked her deaf co-workers to teach her some words and phrases in sign language. 

Today, Ms. Randolph, a human resources assistant in ARPC's promotions eligibility division, is one of nearly 200 certified sign language interpreters on the Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf in Colorado. 

On Feb. 17, Ms. Randolph got a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity when she served as the sign language interpreter for President Barack Obama and other speakers during the president's speech and signing of the stimulus bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. 

"How my name? Why my name? I couldn't tell you," she said. "But it was a blessing. I thought 'oh my God, I am interpreting for the president.'" 

Ms. Randolph said she received a call Sunday shortly after leaving church. The caller left a message on her cell phone saying she was calling on behalf of President Obama and that the president needed a sign language interpreter for an upcoming event in Denver. 

Ms. Randolph said she was skeptical of the message and thought it might be a scam.
"I wasn't even going to call them back," she said. "I thought if it was real, they've probably found somebody by now." 

But she did return the call, only to have her skepticism grow. 

"They asked me for my social security number," Ms. Randolph said. "That's when I thought for sure this is a scam. I was paranoid and told her I didn't feel comfortable giving my social security number." 

Ms. Randolph said the White House representative explained that the information was needed to conduct a background investigation, and that if she didn't provide it, they would have to find another interpreter. 

She relented and gave them the information. 

"I hung up and thought, 'I just got scammed,'" Ms. Randolph said. 

Fueling her fears, she also realized she hadn't gotten any of the details about the event. She called the number back and left a message asking for more details about the job. 

On Monday, she received a call back from another White House representative who provided her with all the specifics. That's when she realized it was real, and the nerves really started to set in, she said. 

"I was reading everything. Getting up to par on all of it," Ms. Randolph said. "Anything that is said, I'm there to interpret." 

She arrived at the museum at 10:30 a.m. the day of the speech.

"I was thinking, 'I'm really going to interpret for the president," she said. 

But any nervousness she was feeling soon faded. 

"When the singer started the national anthem and I was signing the song, I was overcome with emotion, and I just started doing what I was there to do," she said. 

Ms. Randolph signed for several hours during the ceremony, and the president's speech was perhaps easiest of all, she said. President Obama spoke for 15 minutes before signing the stimulus bill. 

"He was easy to interpret," she said. "He's not a real fast speaker." 

Afterward, Ms. Randolph said she didn't have time to reflect on the moment. 

"I knew my students were waiting," she said. "I had to go teach my class at the Community College of Aurora." 

Ms. Randolph is an adjunct faculty member at CCA where on weeknights she teaches American Sign Language. 

She said she has since realized how fortunate she was to have this opportunity. 

"I stepped out on my faith, and I did it," she said. "It was an honor."