“Portraits of Leadership” Video Transcript

The following are English transcriptions of the segments from the video accompanying “The Obama Portraits Tour” exhibition that are in spoken Ukrainian or in American sign language.

Darian B. Gambrell, What is leadership? (2:44)

Leadership means a lot to me. I think leaders have to listen; they have to listen, as a deaf person I have to listen with my eyes. Listening in both ways that are auditory, they have to listen in ways that are visual, they need to see what’s happening in front of them. Eye contact is very important. I would say that’s first. Secondly, I think there needs to be integrity, authenticity, and transparency. People need to be honest with the people that they’re leading because otherwise there won’t be that trust and without that trust you can’t do the job of leadership. You will lose your audience. So I would say people need to be, leaders need to listen and there needs to be authenticity and transparency.

Oleksandra Kovulchuk, Who is the “portrait of leadership” in your life? (4:52)

If I think of a person who inspires me right now—to a draw a portrait of a person that would speak an important story for eternity - I would say that would be Valeria Yezhova, a ten year old girl from Ukraine who was also a champion in checkers. She’s been fundraising in the Ukrainian streets for a couple of days, trying to raise money for Ukrainian militaries and doing that. She inspired millions of people around the world to do good, to do something bigger than their life.

Darian B. Gambrell, What comes to mind when you see the Obama portraits? (8:29)

When I see the portraits, I see calm; that’s the feeling that I get. I see gratitude, I see them thanking us, for allowing them to serve us for eight years. You know, it was a long time to have those eight years with them at the helm of our country and I think it shows their appreciation to trust us to trust them and I think we followed along with their leadership over the course of eight years, but I think that through the portraiture we also see that that conversation didn’t stop when they ended their role in office. Everything they’ve done since then really shows their legacy is still in motion. And that’s what I see when I see those portraits. I also see a lot of engagement between the two of them, the behavior, the body language in the portraiture, like I said, President Obama’s sitting, he’s inviting you in for a conversation and I think that’s continued even after they’ve left office.

Darian B. Gambrell, Did the Obama Portrait artists capture the essence of leadership? (9:19)

The portraits of President Obama and Michelle Obama absolutely portray the essence of leadership because of the representation of people in the community. Certainly we can see, President Obama. Firstly, he’s sitting, he’s not standing, or being an orator. He’s making a connection, he’s showing something different, he’s showing he’s available for conversation; he looks like he wants to sit down at our level and have a conversation to meet us where we’re at. He looks engaging, and to me that strikes an immediate connection. The portrait of Michelle Obama, the First Lady, shows her grace. I think she always has such grace and she kept her chin up and rise above it as First Lady, as a Black woman, as a mother, as a wife, as all of those roles that she encompasses. I think her portrait really shows all of that and so for us, especially, you know, for little girls to see that as well. It captures the essence that is really important.

Darian B. Gambrell, Where do you see leadership in your own community? (22:01)

Examples of when I see leadership in my own community would be… I mean, remember now I’m in the community of deaf, deafblind, late deafened, and hard of hearing people and it’s a very, very small community, numerically. But it’s people who have experienced a lot of barriers in their life; whether that’s barriers to access, via communication, so things can be very challenging and leadership shows up in a lot of different ways, particularly around communication. But I would also have to add for people who have intersectional identities; folks who are deaf or hard of hearing who are Black, who are Latino/a, African, Asian who are intersectional in that way. We have additional barriers, additional obstacles or identities in conjunction with our deafness and so we fight for our human rights every day. Whether that’s communication access, whether that’s letting people know that we are here, we are human, we’re just like you, don’t miss us, don’t ignore us, we’re here just like you.