The Braille Monitor August/September, 2003
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The Rest of Reality
Address Delivered by Marc Maurer
President, National Federation of the Blind
at the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Louisville, Kentucky, July 3, 2003
The velvet black of the
night sky bedight with jeweled stars beckoned;
The ever-changing rivulets among the waves along the shore reflected the dancing flashes of sunlight;
The enthusiastic restless breakers summoned the shore-bound to come a-roving.
The dappled shadows almost concealed the water nymph, who winked at the sojourner across the rippling rapids.
The captains came marching to open new countries, explore unknown frontiers, establish trade routes.
The blind man quietly waited;
He did not see the flashing sun, the wink of the water nymph, the beckoning stars.
Others told him, when they were not too busy, of the far frontiers; of mighty commerce; of the beauty of sun, sky, and stars.
And when the waiting was ended, he was old.
President Maurer delivers the banquet address as those at the head table look on.
Such is one summation of blindness, which even today constitutes the thinking of many members of the general public, some people in the field of work with the blind, and a few blind people themselves. This summation has no harsh criticism of the blind; no suggestion of cruelty toward us; no obnoxious restriction on our behavior, our activity, or our livelihood. Nevertheless, the depiction is completely erroneous and totally false. In one sense it is more devastating than harshness or cruelty because it contains an implied gentleness toward the blind, who are permitted to wait, and because within it is an assumption that we are irrelevant--that we have nothing to contribute--that we are without hope, without spirit, without an irrepressible internal driving force. Exploration, romance, and adventure are for somebody else--not for the blind. Beauty may be observed in the heavens, the sea, or a woodland glade, but none of this is for us. We are relegated to a closed set of experiences which are determined by somebody else. The exhortation, though kindly meant, is as restrictive as an iron band. It is to wait; always to wait.
In 1652 John Milton wrote a poem about his blindness. The most famous line of this poem, which has ever since been regarded as reflecting a proper humility, is, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Of course this line was written 350 years ago; matters must have changed since then. My own experience demonstrates that, despite the advances we have made (and we have made many of them), blind people are often asked to wait. Much of the time we are told to wait for somebody else to get us something, for somebody else to show us where we are to go, for somebody else to invite us to participate in activities in our communities. We are encouraged to believe that the waiting is valuable--if not a high ideal. In 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "All things come round to him who will but wait." However, Longfellow did not have the extensive experience that we possess. If waiting is the coin that must be paid for all things that can come round, the blind should have such blessings in abundance.
We must have understanding for the goodwill that we encounter, and we must exercise politeness because this is the attitude that promotes growth in civilized society. But we must not forfeit our right to self-determination. No amount of politeness requires the blind to wait for somebody else to make our decisions for us. If we were to take this course, the waiting might continue indefinitely. In 1825, Lord Macaulay warned of the danger inherent in this method of thought. He said:
Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.
Thus spoke Lord Macaulay, and what he said of the generality of individuals is equally applicable to the blind. There may be some who will call us precipitant. Be it so. Some will think us rash. This cannot be helped. A few will proclaim us to be nothing short of radical or militant. Let them call names if they like; our lives are on the line, and we will live them to the fullest. As the spirit of our Federation has made abundantly clear, we will seize the liberty that is our right; we will not defer; we will not delay; we are no longer prepared to wait.
The notion that blind people should wait suggests that we do not have the same capacity as others and that somebody else should supervise our actions. It implies that we are inferior to the sighted.
If blindness means a fundamental diminution of ability, the blind should be content to receive support and assistance, and they should recognize that waiting is part of the process. If, however, the blind possess all of the capacity of the general public except the ability to use vision, it is fair to expect as much from the blind as from the sighted. It is also necessary to demand of society that blind people be accepted on terms of equality.
To illustrate certain factors that have an impact on the lives of the blind, consider a fanciful analogy. If all mature human beings who are taller than six feet two inches in height were regarded as less capable than those of shorter stature, there would be an immediate and dramatic classification along the lines of physical size. Short people would be favored, and tall people would be shunned. Growth inhibitors would be sold to prevent the development of excessive height. High heels would no longer be the fashion.
Benevolent societies would be initiated to offer counseling and comfort to the unfortunate tall. Special places would be set aside where these folk could interact with one another out of the sight of their superiors, the short. Homes for the tall would be established in which the tall could live without being constantly reminded of their deformity. Fundraising drives would be undertaken to reduce the disadvantages of financial want for the lanky and to provide adequate funding to pay the administrators of institutions for the tall. Probably, in the course of time, specialized laws would be established to prevent unreasonable exploitation of the tall. Certain trades of a simple and repetitive nature with a suitably modest financial return (the tall trades) would offer the tall meaningful occupations. Orientation classes would be constructed to teach the tall techniques for managing their awkward and ungainly frames.
Eventually an entire structure of agencies to provide service to the tall would be established, and an association of individuals involved in the field of rehabilitation for the tall would come into being. Most of the members of this association would be normal--not drawn from the ranks of the tall. However, occasionally an almost normal person, a member of the tall with a small enough stature to pass for normal, would be allowed to join. This would demonstrate appropriate concern for including the views of the tall. But of course the majority of the members of the association would be short and would possess high-powered degrees from accredited universities with programs established to train the professionals in the proper methods for providing instruction to the tall. These charitably inclined instructors of the tall would interpret the needs of their clients to the public and would minister to the wants of the disadvantaged minority.
The instructors would also serve on the President's Committee for the Employment of the Tall and other entities established for the benefit of the group. After several decades of exploration and professional development with appropriate scholarly examination of the psychological impact of being tall in a society established by and operated for the short, there would be an adequate understanding of the specialized problems faced by the tall, and all that would remain for the professionals to accomplish would be the refinement of the tools and techniques of the profession.
Of course there would be a need to assure quality standards within the ranks of the professionals in service to the tall, and standard-setting bodies would be created. The tall would be rigidly excluded from consideration of such standards except now and then as a matter of tokenism. This would be done to ensure the high quality of programming for the tall. As administrators of programs for the tall would observe, to invite the tall to assist in determining standards for the programs that serve them would be equivalent to asking patients in the hospital to design medical procedures.
But suppose that the tall examined their condition and disagreed with the classification assigned to them. Suppose they argued that the assumption of inferiority had been based on false premises--that the length of one's body is no determiner of mental capacity or of other characteristics that make a human being productive. They might come together in a national organization to protest the arbitrary determination of inability that had been imposed. They might petition the government for a change in status. They might conduct public campaigns to alter the way they were perceived by the members of the public at large. They might attempt to have laws adopted that guaranteed their right to live in the world on an equal basis with others. They might proclaim their determination to speak on their own behalf. They might insist on the fundamental equality of the tall. They might reject the assertion that the length of their bodies made them awkward and ungainly. They might decide to abandon the homes and retreats for the tall, asserting as they left them that they intended to be accepted within society, not isolated from it. They might declare with unmistakable vigor that they would decide for themselves what their lives would be. In the process of coming to this understanding, the tall would say to certain of the administrators of programs established to meet their needs, "You have offered what you believe is kindness to us, but your kindness has included condescension and the attempt to hold us in bondage. You have treated us like children, but we reject your comprehension of our ability, and we insist that we be accepted as your equals. Your assumptions are not ours. You have said that you will interpret our lives for us, but this can no longer be done. If you will work with us, we will welcome you in partnership. But you will no longer dominate our existence because we will not permit it."
From such a declaration conflict would probably erupt. Administrators of programs for the tall (or, at least some of them) would regard the obstreperous malcontents as ungrateful and would tell the members of the general public that these upstarts were seeking to grab power--were attempting to dictate to agency administrators. Undaunted by these attacks, the members of the organized tall movement would build their own programs for training the tall and would find adherents among officials in the ranks of those in work for the tall. After a period of confrontation, greater harmony and cooperation than had previously existed would emerge in the field of work for the tall.
With growing cooperation and increasing harmony, the tall and administrators of programs for the tall (an increasing number of them drawn from the ranks of the tall themselves) would begin to wonder why there had ever been any conflict.
Is this an apt analogy? Some will deny it. How can the physical height of a human being reasonably be compared to blindness? Height is no barrier to employment or social acceptance, they will say. However, consider no less an authority than the military of the United States. A height requirement has sometimes been imposed on applicants who seek to serve as fighter pilots. The planes were small, the story goes, and nobody taller than five feet six inches would be accepted.
The philosopher Francis Bacon has also added his weight of opinion. "Wise nature [he said] did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high; and therefore . . . exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads." No social stigma? No impact on employment? Don't you believe it! At times the tall have been an oppressed minority.
But what of the blind? What have we done, and how have we fared since the time of the founding of our movement at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1940? When the National Federation of the Blind came into existence, the task before us was monumental. Blind men and women were almost completely without jobs except in a few sheltered workshops and a small number of vending stands. Education existed for some at the school for the blind but rarely beyond. Participation in the broader activities of the community was almost unknown. Public aid to the blind programs had been established in a number of states, but these were often interpreted in the most restrictive way. Our founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, himself was informed shortly after he graduated from high school that public assistance would not be available to him if he attempted to enroll at the University of California.
The Books for the Blind program had come into being in the Library of Congress in the early 1930's. State programs for the blind had been initiated in many places, but rehabilitation was largely rudimentary and often unavailable. Despite these dismal prospects, or more likely because of them, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a handful of others brought the Federation into being. It was an act of hope and faith, and it began a national movement that has for more than six decades been encouraging the blind to recognize their own capacity and to act upon this understanding. In one sense we who make up the organized blind movement are not what we were at the time of our founding. There are more of us; we have become better organized; we have gathered more resources; and we have more experience. In another sense the Federation has not changed for all of the decades of its expansion and growth. It is composed of the blind, and we have the same dreams, the same dedication, the same history, and the same purpose as those who have preceded us. Furthermore, we very often face the same dangers, and we are required to exhibit the same determination and the same courage.
In 1940 the cruelty to the blind that had been permitted in former times was no longer acceptable. Part of our heritage tells us that in Roman times blind infants were exposed on the hills to die. Later, blind women were sold into slavery, and in the medieval period blind men were exhibited at country fairs dressed in donkeys' ears. They were made to fight each other for the amusement of the crowd. Blindman's buff is a vestige of the game. One person is blindfolded while others jostle, prod, and poke the blinded one, who is supposed to try to catch them. The "buff" is a slap on the rump, probably shortened from the word "buffet."
The cruelty that was once associated with blindness is brought to mind because, despite all of the progress we have made, there are still those who would deny us our fundamental rights and who would assert their domination over us.
Dan W. Brock, who claims to be a medical bioethicist, has written an article entitled "Health Care Resource Prioritization and Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities," published as part of a book issued in the year 2000 with the title Americans with Disabilities: Exploring Implications of the Law for Individuals and Institutions. In his paper Brock says that, if medical resources are scarce, they should be used to enhance the lives of those who are most likely to have the best quality of life. Quality is defined by Brock. He assumes that any disabled person will necessarily suffer a life with less quality than the nondisabled. Hence, if there is one procedure to give, the able-bodied applicant should get it. Brock does not explain why the life of an able-bodied person contains more quality than the life of a disabled person. He assumes that because individuals seek to avoid disabilities, this is an objective measure of quality, which can be applied to all life.
Of course, other characteristics might be inserted in Brock's so-called objective analysis. For example, many people seek chocolate. Those who do believe that the absence of chocolate is a disadvantage. The chocolate-deprived have a lower quality of life than the chocolate-fulfilled. According to Brock's so-called objective analysis, the chocolate-fulfilled (probably fatter than the chocolate-deprived) should receive scarce medical procedures because of their superior quality of life. I suspect Brock would quibble with this analysis, but it is based upon his own approach.
There is one term in Brock's writing which has a pseudo-scientific appearance. It is QALY, which stands for Quality Adjusted Life Year. Here, in part, is what Brock says:
Suppose two patients, of whom one is blind but who are otherwise similar, each need a lifesaving organ transplant, and there is only one available organ. Should the disability and lower health-related quality of life of the blind patient, which will result in fewer QALYs produced if she receives the transplant, give her lower priority for the transplant? Many would say it should not, and so, presumably, does the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]. Since one individual would prefer an outcome where she survives in full health to one where she survives blind, we can grant that in this respect the former is a better outcome.
Brock assumes that the possession of the capacity to see makes the seeing life qualitatively better than the one without sight. He claims that the lower quality of life of a blind person indicates that from an objective point of view health care benefits should be reserved for the sighted.
It is not surprising that Brock also believes the fetuses of babies who are likely to be born with disabilities should be aborted. In other words, kill the blind while they are in the womb. If you can't kill them before they're born, withhold treatment afterward. While you're at it, tell people that this is being done in the name of ethics and fairness and impartiality and improving the quality of life. What a shameful display of presumption, arrogance, and ignorance.
Brock also tells us that the disabled require specialized services, that the money for specialized services could have been spent on the able-bodied, and that the able-bodied have a better quality of life than the disabled. Therefore, to maximize quality of life, give the money to the able-bodied and eliminate programs for the disabled. If programs for the disabled are to be tolerated, the only justification for them (according to Brock) is the kindness and generosity of the public.
The assessment of diminished quality of life is made by Brock, who tells us that he knows more about the quality of our lives than we do. The value of specialized training for the disabled is determined by Brock, who tells us that he knows more about its effectiveness than we do. The claim of moral superiority is that of Brock, who asserts his right to decide what system will be used to justify our future and our very existence. After telling us that we do not deserve it, Brock says that he will permit us to work and travel and live as a matter of kindness.
Brock may think that he can interpret our lives and specify our futures, but he is wrong! We the blind have something to say about what happens to us. We will meet him in the lecture halls, in the pages of scholarly journals, in the corridors of Congress, and (if necessary) we will meet him in the streets! We will do battle for ourselves and for those who come after us. Let anybody who doubts this determination come to our convention tonight. We will not let anybody belittle us, bamboozle us, or betray us. Brock is not the deciding factor; we the organized blind of the United States fill that role. If Brock recognizes the quality that is within us, we will permit him to have a voice in affairs affecting our lives. If he does not, he may turn his attention to any other field of endeavor for which his limited capabilities make him qualified. We demand the liberty that is our right. We will accept nothing less than full equality, and we will not defer; we will not delay; we are simply no longer prepared to wait.
Are blind people fatter than sighted people? Do we eat more than our sighted neighbors? Such speculation has inspired much debate. Blind people, it is argued, are more sedentary than others--after all, we are often told to wait. Sports are often for sighted people--baseball, basketball, football, and volleyball. Tastebuds (some people say) are enhanced in the blind because the brainpower which might have been used for seeing is assigned to other sensory organs. The enhanced sense of taste tempts the blind to eat. With these factors influencing the lives of the blind, are blind people fatter than sighted people?
An article appearing in the October 2002 issue of Prevention magazine provides the following:
In a recent Swedish study subjects ate 22 percent less food when they were blindfolded, but they felt just as full as usual (Obesity Research, Feb 2002). So taking vision out of the picture may work in your weight loss favor.
Without the sense of sight [continues Prevention], you are forced to rely on internal signals of satisfaction from your stomach and brain. Most of us normally rely on external cues--an empty plate, the end of a TV show, or the bottom of the bag--to tell us when we're full.
That is what Prevention magazine said. The blindfolded get full faster than those who can see what they're eating--22 percent faster. Probably we also save money on groceries. Blindness, apparently, has hidden advantages. According to Prevention, because we're blind, we're also slim.
Another peculiar portrayal alleges that we who are blind have lost our sexuality. In an article entitled "Folklore of Blindness" by A. Wagner-Lampl and G.W. Oliver, which appeared in the May-June, 1994, issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, the writers tell us that castration and blindness are equivalent. They cite Sigmund Freud's analysis of the ancient Greek play Oedipus Rex as evidence.
The equation of blindness and castration [these authors tell us] is also shown in the Irish myth in which prisoners are given the choice between emasculation and being blinded. Many blind men and women who are in counseling report feeling generally impotent and castrated and find themselves being treated by others as though they were asexual.
So state these authors. As I think about what they have said, I wonder how many blind people they have met. I don't want to be personal about these things, but is this the way you feel? My observation tells me that blind people are as bold, as charming, as intriguing, and as sexy as anybody else. Those who believe that we have been emasculated have something to learn. We will handle such matters with the discretion they demand, but we will handle them, and we will take second place to nobody. We have within us excitement, romance, and the capacity for love, and we will not permit these virtues to be unrecognized. This, too, is part of what must and will be ours!
In 1987, as I came to our banquet table for the first time as president of the Federation, I reported to you about the Mary Bryant Home for Blind Men and Women in Springfield, Illinois. The administrator of the home, Frances Trees, had sent a letter to directors of rehabilitation agencies to try to drum up business for the home. Included with the letter was a packet of information describing the home and its services. A portion of the letter reads as follows:
As you are aware, there comes a time in the lives of many visually impaired persons when they are unable to live independently. Some younger persons return to their homes following their education from a school for the visually impaired. In many cases these young men and women are returning to homes where both parents are employed outside the home and find themselves staying alone all day with nothing to do.
The Mary Bryant Home is a resource I wish you would consider when it comes to assisting individuals or families to deal with the issue of placement. Currently our residents range in age from twenty-four to ninety-six years of age.
Frances J. Trees
The nature of the resource represented by the Mary Bryant Home is described in the material which accompanied the letter. Here is part of the description:
The home is arranged for convenience, on one level--no stairs. Hand rails are installed throughout the home. Our full and part-time staff provide round-the-clock service to the residents seeing to their health, safety, nutritional, recreational, and emotional needs. Leave of absence may be taken by residents for a short period of time providing the person taking the resident out sign a release of responsibility for injuries, accidents, or illnesses which might occur during the time they are away from the Mary Bryant Home.
[I interrupt to wonder what would happen if the resident wanted to leave the Mary Bryant Home unaccompanied. What would happen if the resident did not have somebody available to sign a release of responsibility? Apparently this kind of independent action is not permitted. But back to the information from the home.]
Personal property, other than clothing, may be brought to the home only with the prior approval of the Administrator. Food is prohibited in the resident rooms. Beer, wine, and other intoxicating liquors: Only when approved by the resident's physician please, and all items of this nature are to be kept at the Medicine Room, not in resident's room. Incoming calls for residents may be received on the house phones, but it would cause less confusion and less interruption if these calls were to be made between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
As I said in 1987, there is much more that might be said about the Mary Bryant Home, but this is enough to make the point. For the blind independence of action cannot be found at the Mary Bryant Home; for the blind there is no future. Decisions are made not by the blind but by the administrator.
Not long after our 1987 convention, I received a letter from the parents of twin blind women who were residents at the Mary Bryant Home. Here is part of it:
We have in our possession the Braille Monitor regarding an address delivered by Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind at a banquet of the annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona, July 2, 1987.
We are in agreement in this article that some blind people can and should achieve academically and to their greatest capabilities. However, when they are not able to do so, other arrangements must be made. Therefore, we as parents of twin blind daughters appreciate the fact there are homes available for such situations.
When we were faced with the fact that it was time that we should be making some kind of arrangements for our twins, who were thirty-two years old, and we might add, they realized a home was to be found for their particular needs, we were very fortunate and greatly impressed with the Mary Bryant Home.
One of our daughters chose to go live at the home very soon and has been there since May 1986. However, our other daughter did not make a decision until after spending a three-week period there while we were on vacation. It was then she chose to make the move in December 1986.
We, and our daughters, have a deep respect for the rules at this home, for they have their independence but also are well taken care of.
[I interrupt to ask what kind of independence do you believe can be found at the Mary Bryant Home? The parents leave us in no doubt. Here is what they say.]
It is our opinion this home certainly meets the requirements of our daughters' needs. There is freedom to attend church of their choice, join the choirs, participate in community affairs as well as many activities at the home.
In closing, it is our hope that a retraction of the statement made against the Mary Bryant Home and Mrs. Frances Trees would be in order for the purpose it serves for those who desperately need help.
The letter from the parents of these blind women says that there are blind people who desperately need help. I believe the need is desperate, but it is not what these parents believe it to be. When I checked a few weeks ago, these twin blind women were still at the Mary Bryant Home; still subject to the rules and requirements, arrangements and restrictions; still told when they can come, and when they can leave; still forced to have somebody else assume responsibility for them whenever they wish to be taken out of the home; still prohibited from having food or drink in their rooms; still expected to make their phone calls between 1:00 and 4:30 p.m. But of course the blind women can attend a church of their choice and can sing in the choir.
The twin blind women who became inmates of the Mary Bryant Home in 1986 have been waiting for an opportunity to gain independence for almost two decades. The tragedy of their lives speaks loudly to me because, during the same year that they entered the home, I was first elected president of the National Federation of the Blind. I have participated in the growth of our organization and the expansion of our activities during the years that these women have waited. We have heard from their parents, and we have heard from the administrator of the home, but we have not heard from the twin sisters because they have been convinced that others should speak and act on their behalf and that their role is to wait. In their case the waiting might continue forever.
The impact of such restrictions, no matter how kindly meant, can be devastating. Some years ago I received a letter from a former employee of a different home which says, in part:
I don't know if you can help, but I don't know who to turn to. I know a woman who is blind and living in a group home. I have been told that blindness is her only disability and that before living in the group home she led herself with a cane and could talk. Now she does not talk and is completely withdrawn. She has been in the group home for several years and has been allowed to slip farther and farther into her darkness. She has little stimulation and has been allowed to completely withdraw from the rest of the world.
I am not a relative, so I don't know how I can help her. I am just someone who used to work in the group home. I had tried to get the supervisors to take an interest in her specific needs and to find ways to stimulate her and to teach her. I can't keep from wondering how her life could be if she had the attention and training that she has been without for so many years.
Such is the simple and heartfelt plea of one human being seeking assistance to regain hope for another. This plea emphasizes the urgent need for us to reject the demand that we wait interminably for others to decide that there is a future for us. For this blind woman and for all others who have been stashed away in warehouses for the blind without stimulation, without independence, and without hope, we say this: we will give you the spirit of determination and the guts that we have come to know so well in the National Federation of the Blind. There is something better to do with your lives and ours than to move to the home for the blind and wait for life to ebb away in idleness and despair. The lives we have as blind people are as important as any that exist, and we will live them. A life deferred is a life denied, and we cannot tolerate delay. As we experiment with liberty, we will make mistakes, but they will be our mistakes. We will learn from them, and with the increased knowledge we will surmount the challenges that come.
The poets tell us to wait and urge us to believe that there is honor in the waiting. The bioethicists claim that our lives are less important than those of others and that those of us who were blind before birth should have been aborted. Prevention magazine alleges that our appetites change because of our inability to see food. The keepers of the homes for the blind prey upon our lives to keep themselves in business with restrictive rules, and they call their restrictions independence. Such assertions are part of the reality of our lives, but this reality is changing because it cannot withstand the force of our movement. Furthermore, this part of the reality is only a small segment of the whole. The rest of the truth about blindness is upbeat, spirited, and vibrant because we are writing the poetry and creating the music for our own song of liberation. When we come together in our thousands in the organized blind movement, we learn from each other, inspire each other, support each other, and believe in each other.
Dr. tenBroek founded our movement. Before he ceased to lead the Federation, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan had come to be his student, his colleague, his beloved friend. Dr. Jernigan became our beloved leader, and he dreamed of a future for us beyond anything that we could have imagined.
People come to visit the National Center for the Blind from all over the world; the phones ring; and the mail comes pouring in. Coordination of effort occurs with state affiliates, with local chapters, with special interest divisions, with our training centers, and with other programs we have initiated. The National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute is rising from the ground and taking shape. Programs to address the special needs of the blind come into being, and future programs are being planned. The number of hands that come to the task is increasing at a rapid rate, and innovation occurs at all levels within the movement.
Dr. Jernigan, the man who established the National Center for the Blind, who took so many of the phone calls, who wrote the articles and edited the books, who traveled from our Center to all parts of the world, and who inspired his colleagues with the beautiful cadence of his voice, comes no more. But the spirit that was his--that spirit which he shared with Dr. tenBroek--is as bright in our midst today as it has ever been, and our determination is as strong. The articles continue to be written; the books continue to be published; the programs continue to be planned; and the message continues to be delivered in our own country and in lands beyond our borders. The message is simple, straightforward, and noncomplex. It is this: we are the blind, and we carry the responsibility for building our own future.
Many come to the task weary and dispirited; they gain strength. Some feel discouragement; they gain faith. Some are overwhelmed and disheartened; they gain hope. When the challenges come, we will surmount them. When the doubters attempt to disparage our cause, we will persuade them. When our detractors tell us that the price of freedom is too great to be paid by the blind, we will demonstrate that we have the capacity to do whatever is required for our own independence. We will not falter or hesitate or diminish our effort. We take the path that we are destined to travel with the spring of gladness in our step and the lilt of laughter in our hearts; and we will prevail. With our imagination, with our courage, with our dedication, and with our determined spirit, we must and will have liberty, and no force on earth can stop us or turn us back. We will not defer; we will not delay; we are no longer prepared to wait. The days ahead belong to us. Come, join me, and we will make it come true!