Denver Mayor Mike Johnston has a disciplined, level demeanor when making public speeches. That might be why he stands out against his American Sign Language interpreter, who aggressively and flamboyantly signs alongside him.
I reached out to the mayor’s signer, Noah Blankenship, earlier this week. "I wanted to acknowledge that I do have a terrific team interpreter, Elisabeth Clegg," Blankenship responded in an email. "She is my team hearing interpreter feeding me the language, so I can sign the language in richer ASL (American Sign Language) as deaf interpreter. This YouTube video is a great example highlighting the importance of having the right kind of representation."
A story published in The Atlantic eloquently explains why American Sign Language interpreters exude such enthusiasm. “Signers are animated not because they are bubbly and energetic, but because sign language uses face and body movements as part of its grammar. In American Sign Language, certain mouth and eye movements serve as adjectival or adverbial modifiers.”
The story outlines one interpreter’s meteoric rise in popular culture during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Lydia Callis “immediately became a Twitter darling,” reported The Atlantic, as she stood alongside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Signer can’t help it, he’s fun to watch
While watching several news conferences this week, I found myself getting lost in Blankenship’s vivid interpretations of Johnston’s prose. I have no doubt Blankenship has developed a fan club among devout watchers of Denvergov.org. A video on the city website and YouTube channel features Blankenship introducing himself to Denver and talking about his career as an interpreter.
Blankenship spent four months studying in Croatia, which does not offer protections such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Blankenship first came to Colorado for a deaf camp in Aspen. He fell in the love with the state and found his way back. He placed living in Summit County on his bucket list and was able to cross it off. Eventually he landed in Denver.
Who is Noah Blankenship?
“Born and raised in the Boston area, Noah Blankenship is a proud Boston fan,” the City and County of Denver reports on its website. “After graduating high school, Noah resided in Rochester, N.Y., for five and half years, earning a couple of degrees, an MBA being one of them."
While at Rochester Institute of Technology, he worked as an American Sign Language Consultant. He studied and lived in Zagreb, Croatia, for four months in the Fall of 2017.
In August 2021, Blankenship relocated to Breckenridge. There, he worked at a couple of family-owned businesses, according to the city website. Finally, in June 2022, Blankenship moved near Denver, where he could be closer to his new life as a Deaf Program Specialist.
Blankenship can rest assured that he’s making an impression upon Denver as he helps bring city government to those hard of hearing.