Student to Start Yearlong Vow of Silence

Is silence really golden?

Brett Banfe, an 18-year-old college freshman, certainly hopes so.

The Haddonfield, N.J., teen committed himself today to a yearlong vow of silence to raise money for charity.

Banfe decided on his year of silence several months ago on a whim, when he was talking to a group of high school friends.

“We were talking about what it would be like to stop speaking for a day. And I said I could do it for a year. And they said there’s no way you can do it for a year,” he told Good Morning America earlier this month. So he decided he would accept the challenge.

Since word got out, the Banfe family has been flooded with media attention.

“We were not prepared for this,” Brett’s mother, Sharon Banfe, said today, as she waited for a French television crew to arrive at her house, and tried to prepare for a planned news conference this afternoon.

“It is mind-boggling. I’m waiting to hear from President Clinton, because we’ve heard from just about everybody else,” she joked.

Banfe told GMA he hoped he would become more observant and a better listener over the next year.

“One area that I think is going to be transformed is how I listen to people, because I’m not going to be trying to formulate what I’m going to say next,” he said.

Banfe attracted sponsorship from the Web site, which agreed to pay him $20 a day for each day he doesn’t speak, and a $5,000 bonus if he finishes the entire year. Banfe’s mother says he’ll donate the money to Head Start.

The Science of Silence

Staying quiet for a year could be difficult for Banfe, who on Sunday leaves for his first year of college at William Patterson University in New Jersey.

To make it, he’s assembled an array of high-tech gadgets to help him survive — he’s set himself up with a new computer with a Web cam linked to his Internet site, and an e-mail pager to communicate with professors and friends.

“He’s a computer person,” his mother explained.

His university says it doesn’t plan on making any special arrangements for him, since his silence is the result of a choice, not a disability.

Banfe admits that not speaking could make his social life more difficult.

“If a girl wants to go out on a date with me, then she’ll have to approach me,” he said. But he hopes people will find his attentiveness refreshing.

Danna Day, an author and communications expert, says Brett should be able to fulfill his vow.

“I’d say he has a good shot.”

If he succeeds, Day thinks it could be a “tremendously creative” experience for him.