Broward College Speaker Series: Marlee Matlin

Michelle Castano


Marlee Matlin is known for many of her achievements. Aside from winning a best actress Oscar for her movie portrayal of Sarah in “Children of Lesser God,” she is also an established author, activist and mother of four. Having lost her hearing at 18-months-old, Matlin has overcome struggles, discrimination and even a substance abuse problem.
  In its fifth year of showcasing the “Broward College Speaker Series,” BC invited Matlin as a key speaker. The event took place in early February at the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Along with her longtime friend and Sign Language interpreter, Jack Jason, Matlin lectured the Broward community on her journey and purpose in life. She stated that she lived by a simple formula [life motto]. “If you have courage and dreams, then success will come afterwards,” said Matlin.
  Prior to the main lecture, BC welcomed students to participate in a “Fire Side Chat.” Carlos Parra, who is the Director of Student Services, conducted the event. BC’s Women in Film club comprised the audience of the chat. “From the student life perspective, it’s awesome to be able to see students interact with industry leaders in various aspects,” said Parra.
  Women in Film Club president, Carolyn Savage was the moderator of the “Fire Side Chat” Q & A portion. “This is the first time that a fire side chat has been hosted by a student or a student organization. Who better to ask these questions at the chats than students who are looking to aspire to be what many of these individuals are; it’s a wonderful platform for us,” said Savage.
  The chat session with Broward College students was followed by the main lecture for all the event attendees. Matlin said that growing up, her parents were always supportive of her and never saw her a having a disability. “I told myself when I was 11, that I would write a book and tell the world that it was okay to be deaf,” she said. She went on to write a children’s book titled “Deaf Child Crossing” and most recently released her autobiography, “I’ll Scream Later.”

  The title for her autobiography came to her while she was at rehab for substance abuse. She explained that rehab was the best gift she could have possibly given herself. “In the middle of treatment at 5:30 in the morning, I received a phone call from Jack Jason [text telephone was used]. He asked if I had comments for the press because I just received my Oscar nomination. I responded with ‘tell them I’ll scream later’ since I couldn’t scream because I was in rehab and everyone was asleep,” said Matlin. She also said that the name for her book was a very therapeutic title because she had many things to say with experiences that she had gone through.

  “I thought I would share different aspects of my life that happened that hopefully will inspire people who might be in similar situations identify what I went through (or just learn about me) and just help themselves,” she said.

  Matlin has also been involved with humanitarian causes including raising money for children who need hearing aids in developing countries. Matlin raised $1 million in one night on the television show The Apprentice. She also said the correct term for the community is not “hearing impaired” but instead it is “deaf or hard of hearing.”

She continues to spread awareness through her acting, activism and talks. “I can say that I’m very lucky to have been working consistently for the last 30 years,” she said.
Ellice Martinez, Associate Vice President, Community Partnerships and Institutional Events at Broward College, was in charge of the  Speaker Series. She said BC wanted students to see the reason they do this event is to educate and enlighten the community. 

“We want them to know and feel that one-on-one connection with the speakers and have the opportunity to ask questions that you wouldn’t be able to do in the main lecture and we bring the speaker to them,” she said in regards to the fire side chat.

The next speaker in the Speaker Series will be NFL legend and co-host and analyst for FOX NFL Sunday, Terry Bradshaw. It will be moderated by Dave Hyde from the Sun-Sentinel.

For further information on the Broward College Speaker Series, visit 

cutline: Marlee Matlin was alongside with her Sign Language interpreter, Jack Jason. Women in Film club President, Carolyn Savage moderated the Q & A at the Fire Side chat.                                                                                          

Photo courtesy of Broward College