Braille Monitor                                                                                                        April 2004

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Imagine Tomorrow:
Grand Opening, NFB Jernigan Institute

by Barbara Pierce

Dear Friends,

Today we open the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the tangible representation of the faith that we have in the future for the blind. In this Institute we are absolutely certain that the dreams we have for a bright tomorrow will be fulfilled. We who are blind, along with our friends and colleagues, will explore unknown territory and develop new forms of communication. We will create opportunity for the blind of this generation and for the children that come after us. We have built on the dreams of our predecessors, and we know that they are proud of what we accomplish this day. We thank all who have participated in this tremendous effort, and we promise that what we begin today with such anticipation is but the first step in bringing true independence to the blind of the nation and the world. With unfaltering faith, with unquenchable determination, we look to tomorrow with joy!

The tenBroek Library as seen from the third-floor atrium just before the celebration began.
The tenBroek Library as seen from the third-floor atrium just before the celebration began.

These are the words that appear at the beginning of the program for the grand opening of the Institute we have been striving to build for more than four years. Its working title at the start was the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. Gradually it became clear that, because the organized blind were responsible for bringing it into existence and imagining what it could become, the words "National Federation of the Blind" should appear in the title of the Institute, so we began calling it the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute. Recently, however, we began to recognize that Dr. Jernigan's seminal role in conceiving this dream and challenging us to fulfill it should be reflected in the Institute's title. Therefore on the afternoon of January 30 the NFB board of directors met to establish the official names of the Institute and two of its most important components. The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute (Jernigan Institute for short) became the third and permanent title of the Institute. The third floor facility will be known officially as the Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Library and Resource Center (tenBroek Library for short). And the large, flexible space on the fourth floor that can be divided into smaller rooms for meetings has been officially named NFB Members Hall, or Members Hall for short.

One of the stations where guests could sample Baltimore's most memorable dishes.
One of the stations where guests could sample Baltimore's most memorable dishes.

The grand opening celebration took place then in the tenBroek Library and Members Hall. Some construction was still going on in the building, but guests from Greater Baltimore arrived on the evening of January 30 at the Wells Street entrance, where they could check their coats and use the three glass elevators to reach the third floor for the first part of the gala event.

Federationists had been arriving all day from across the country. They entered our complex using the Johnson Street entrance and spent their free time in the fourth-floor dining room, where food and friends were waiting.

As 5:30 approached, marshals took their places to direct Federation guests from the National Center into the Institute and down the stairs to the third floor, where they could enter the library from the atrium. As each guest entered, he or she received a souvenir program and a wine glass. At least, the first 1,300 guests received wine glasses; well over a hundred guests found that the glasses were gone by the time we reached the table.

Left to right, Steve Marriott, Allen Harris, and Fred Schroeder chat at one of the many tables in the tenBroek Library
Left to right, Steve Marriott, Allen Harris, and Fred Schroeder chat at one of the many tables in the tenBroek Library.
Gettng anywhere was a challenge, and finding a particular person was nearly impossible.  Luckily people seemed to enjoy chatting with those they found themselve standing near.
Getting anywhere was a challenge, and finding a particular person was nearly impossible. Luckily people seemed to enjoy chatting with those they found themselves standing near.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout this first part of the celebration and upstairs before the program began, guests were entertained by a number of diverse and extremely talented musicians, including bagpiper and NFB member Craig Hedgecock, the Baltimore School for the Arts flute ensemble, Peabody Institute artists, choirs from the Gilman and Bryn Mawr Schools, pianist and NFB student division member Jermaine Gardner, and the Gangplank Ragtime Band.

Jim Fruchterman, Deane Blazie, and Jim Halliday chat together in the tenBroek  Library.
Jim Fruchterman, Deane Blazie, and Jim Halliday chat together in the tenBroek Library.
Nijat Ashrafzada, son of NFB merchants division president Kevan Worley and his wife Bridgit, enjoys meeting Edgar, one of the Ravens football team's mascots, Allen and Poe were not able to join us.
Nijat Ashrafzada, son of NFB merchants division president Kevan Worley and his wife Bridgit, enjoys meeting Edgar, one of the Ravens football team's three mascots. Allen and Poe were not able to join us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A number of people took pictures during this memorable evening, but most of the ones chosen for this report were provided by professional photographer Marc Summerfield of Guill Photo on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore, who volunteered his services. To enjoy them in color, read the April issue online. Go to <www.nfb.org/bralmons.htm> and click on the April issue.

The Orioles mascot, the Bird, leans down to talk to Katrina Beasley of Colorado, who is not quite sure what to think of the attention.
The Orioles mascot, the Bird, leans down to talk to Katrina Beasley of Colorado, who is not quite sure what to think of the attention.
To highlight the Celebration theme, Imagine a Future Full of Opportunity, guests were encouraged to try out a concept car for the future.  The car envisioned would provide access to navigation information nonvisually, allowing a blind driver to pilot the vehicle.
To highlight the Celebration theme, Imagine a Future Full of Opportunity, guests were encouraged to try out a concept car for the future.  The car envisioned would provide access to navigation information nonvisually, allowing a blind driver to pilot the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the library, twenty-eight restaurants and other food emporia of various sorts had set up beautifully and imaginatively decorated stations, where guests could sample everything from sushi and tiny quiches to beef tenderloin and ice cream.

Brian Buhrow examines a three-dimensional model of the crater where the Spirit Rover has landed on Mars.
Brian Buhrow examines a three-dimensional model of the crater where the Spirit Rover has landed on Mars.
Macy McClain of Ohio explores the Everest Expedition display with the help of artist Ann Cunningham while Crystal McClain, Macy's mother, looks on.
Macy McClain of Ohio explores the Everest Expedition display with the help of artist Ann Cunningham while Crystal McClain, Macy's mother, looks on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scores of tables (covered with cloths in the Whozit colors of red, purple, blue, gold, and white) provided places for the lucky to sit down while they enjoyed food, drink, and conversation. Others stood, juggling their plates and cups as they talked.

The entrance to NFB Members Hall before the grand opening, as seen from the fourth -floor atrium.   Jerry Lazarus of the national staff is coming out of the hall.
The entrance to NFB Members Hall before the grand opening, as seen from the fourth-floor atrium. Jerry Lazarus of the national staff is coming out of the hall.
NFB Members Hall before the program began.
NFB Members Hall before the program began.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the stations people could visit were a number where they could read about thirty silent auction packages and bid on them. These packages fulfilled all sorts of recreational and shopping fantasies and together raised about $14,000 for the Jernigan Institute. In addition several exciting displays illustrated important Federation programs and projects being rolled out by our new Institute.

A smiling Donna Hamilton at the podium
A smiling Donna Hamilton at the podium.
United States Senator Paul Sarbanes.
United States Senator Paul Sarbanes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most popular project displays was the car for the blind. Many blind people would enjoy driving again or for the first time. The NFB Jernigan Institute will explore the possibility of creating a car that does not require a sighted driver.

Congressman Benjamin Cardin.
Congressman Benjamin Cardin
Sean O'Keefe
Sean O'Keefe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests enjoyed examining the display of Kurzweil reading machines through the years. A video of television interviews and demonstrations of the huge original machine played at this display. The prototype of the pocket-sized reading machine that Ray Kurzweil's organization and the NFB will release in the relatively near future was not actually on view, but it will be about the size of a digital camera and will work almost anywhere. We have certainly come a long way in thirty years.

One of the most popular displays was the one created and staffed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A twelve-foot rocket, like the one blind students will launch this summer in Virginia, was on display. Replicas of some of the parts of the Mars rovers were available for exploration as were other rocket replicas.

Melanie Sabelhaus
Melanie Sabelhaus
Bill Struever
Bill Struever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other displays represented additional Institute programs. One illustrated the various interest centers available to seniors attending the senior fair in May. Developing new ways to assist seniors who are losing vision is one of the program goals of the Jernigan Institute.

Seated together in the audience, Courtney Despeaux listens to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Seated together in the audience, Courtney Despeaux listens to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Courtney Despeaux
Courtney Despeaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grand opening provided the launch date for our series of distance learning courses on the Web. Learning House, Inc., was present with a CD describing and demonstrating the technology that will make these courses possible. The first course, aimed at classroom teachers and neighborhood school staff members, was actually launched that evening. It provides information and techniques for including a blind student in a regular classroom. Interested professionals can learn more about the course on the NFB Web site.

One of the NFB's most successful efforts to change public attitudes about blindness and the abilities of blind people in recent years was the NFB 2001 Everest Expedition, in which Erik Weihenmayer and his team successfully climbed Mt. Everest using the South Col route. We recently commissioned a renowned tactile artist, Ann Cunningham, to commemorate that event with a work to be placed on permanent display in the tenBroek Library. The exhibit was unveiled for the first time publicly at the grand opening. The flag flown at the top of the world and brought back to us by our team and the permit from the Nepal government that was signed by the entire team were framed and incorporated as part of the display. The rest are five panels, each three feet wide and ranging in height from two to three feet. The subjects of the five studies are the main basecamp, the NFB basecamp, a man crossing an ice crevasse on a horizonal ladder, Mt. Everest itself with the NFB expedition route to the summit marked, and Erik Weihenmayer's profile facing the mountain. The sky, clouds, and sun are made of black slate. The sometimes smooth- and sometimes grainy-textured mountains and ground are fashioned from white marble. The people, animals, structures, and small objects are made of cast bronze. The route up Everest, ropes, and camp and summit markers are made of gold, brass, silver, and steel. Viewers are encouraged to touch the art works, albeit gently.

Euclid Herie
Euclid Herie

Shortly after seven, guests began moving to the fourth floor in preparation for the evening's program and entertainment. As they found seats or places to lean, the Bryn Mawr School: Dayseye sang. Then Donna Hamilton, a newswoman with WBAL-TV, Channel 11, in Baltimore, stepped to the microphone and took charge as master of ceremonies. She did a wonderful job of keeping things moving while at the same time introducing those deserving recognition and welcoming each speaker with warmth, grace, and brevity.

The first speaker introduced by Donna Hamilton was Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. Senator Sarbanes called attention to the way the NFB had mobilized city, state, and federal resources to augment the more than 18,000 individual, corporate, and foundation contributors to bring the Jernigan Institute into being. In closing he said:

Dr. Raymond Kurzweil
Dr. Raymond Kurzweil

I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of knowing one of the National Federation of the Blind's great leaders, a forceful advocate for causes benefitting the blind: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan and his wife Mary Ellen, who is of course with us here tonight, worked tirelessly to empower blind people in a world that was focused almost entirely on the needs of the sighted. Dr. Jernigan had a vision. He encouraged and enabled the blind to be active members of society by improving their access to information, to education, to jobs, and to public facilities.

Since 1978, when Dr. Jernigan brought the national headquarters of the NFB here to Baltimore, our state has been a world focus for efforts to improve the status of the blind. Dr. Jernigan and his enormously able successor, Dr. Marc Maurer, have brought this vision to fruition here tonight. I am delighted to come tonight to thank all of those who made this possible, to wish the Institute the very best as it moves forward, and to say how proud we are in Baltimore and the state of Maryland to be the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind. God bless you and your endeavor.

Senator Barbara Mikulski was unable to attend the grand opening, but she sent an aide to read her letter of greeting and congratulations. Here are its concluding sentences:

I am so proud of you and your commitment to self-help, self-respect, productive employment, and an independent spirit. I applaud your work to provide improved tools for literacy instruction and the development of modern technology for people who cannot see. I commend your continuing and tireless efforts to make your dreams an outstanding reality. Enjoy the fruits of your labors, and use this success to continue to push the envelope of what is possible. I envy you the pleasure of this evening.

The next speaker was Congressman Ben Cardin, who represents the district which includes the south Federal Hill area, where the National Center is located. He pointed with pride to the governmental/private partnership that brought the Institute into being. He also pledged the continued support of the entire Maryland congressional delegation, particularly the two senators and the three members of the house of representatives who represent Baltimore, to support our efforts on behalf of blind Americans.

Speaking immediately after Congressman Cardin was Sean O'Keefe, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Here are his remarks:

Good evening to all of you, ladies and gentlemen. I'm delighted to be here tonight to help celebrate the National Federation of the Blind's new Research and Training Institute. On behalf of the men and women of NASA, I salute NFB's president, Dr. Marc Maurer, and the Institute's executive director, Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, for this truly remarkable accomplishment.

I join them in thanking Governor Ehrlich, Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski, Congressman Cardin, and Mayor O'Malley (O'Malley--yes, that's a good name. I like that Irish tone [laughter])--for their strong support for the organization which is truly, truly a national treasure.

Joining me tonight is a public servant who is helping energize our partnership with the Federation and expand our opportunities at NASA for people of all abilities, our assistant administrator for equal opportunity programs, Dr. Dorothy Hayden Watkins.[applause] Through the NASA Defense Department Computer Electronic Accommodations program, Dorothy is helping to promote NASA in a lot of ways in making a full range of electronic information technology available to NASA employees with visual, hearing, dexterity, and cognitive disabilities. We are quite proud of this program, which we instituted about a year ago throughout the agency. Now this past month I've been involved in some terrific events, including the landing of our twin exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. [applause]

Betsy Zaborowski
Betsy Zaborowski

Tonight this is truly a special, icing-on-the-cake event. The evening is, I think, filled with special pride because NASA and the National Federation of the Blind are partners in an unprecedented exploration mission. Through our partnership we are attempting to do nothing less than change forever how this community has access to science so that young blind boys and girls will be at the head of the pack for the next generation of explorers. This is truly an uplifting goal for our storied agency, to achieve that mark.

I want to illustrate what we're doing in this regard. I'd like to mention that with us in the audience is Dr. Robert Shelton from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. [applause] Dr. Shelton is using his math and computer expertise to help develop easy-to-use, cutting-edge technology tools that make math and science accessible to all students, including students with disabilities. Dr. Shelton is conducting this work through NASA's Space Enterprise, which is led by Dr. Adena Loston from Houston. Both of you, please stand up and be recognized. You've done some great, great work.[applause]

NFB President Marc Maurer
NFB President Marc Maurer

This summer NASA will support the Research and Training Institute's summer science camp for blind students. We're excited that students in grades seven through nine will have hands-on experience at our Goddard Space Flight Center in a number of earth science experiments that range from an exploration of soil moisture content to bird migration patterns and temperature variations. Our Goddard director, Dr. Al Diaz, is here with us tonight, and he deserves a great deal of credit, singularly, I think, among all in the agency.[applause] Al, you have really championed all of our efforts and activities to help in so many ways that are important to all of us throughout the NASA community and certainly within the broader community at large. We are all grateful to you for that tremendous expertise.

If you think summer camp sounds like a lot of fun, you might be among the high-school-level students who will learn and help develop rocket payloads at the Institute and then launch them at our Wallops flight facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. That's a class that I'm not sure many of them will mind being scheduled for. Of course, through the Research and Training Institute we will work with the Federation to adapt NASA's educational materials for blind students in classrooms throughout the country. One of our great projects in this regard, one that many of you are familiar with, is the beautiful book entitled Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy.

President Maurer and Betty Woodward, president of the NFB of Connecticut, hold up the giant check from the Connecticut affiliate that completed the NFB's five-year capital campaign.
President Maurer and Betty Woodward, president of the NFB of Connecticut, hold up the giant check from the Connecticut affiliate that completed the NFB's five-year capital campaign.

For the first time, thanks to the wonderful work of Noreen Grice and Dr. Bernhard Beck-Winchatz, this book uses stunning images obtained from the Hubble to open up the far reaches of the universe to blind students through its imaginative use of illustrations of stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies. For those of you who don't know her, Noreen helps present planetarium programs at the Boston Museum of Science. Several years ago she noticed a number of blind students at the planetarium and asked them afterwards what they thought of the experience. She was told in no uncertain terms that the show wasn't very fun or meaningful to sit through. (I can't imagine that.) But like a good scientist Noreen decided to do some further investigation into the matter.

Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., grand opening honorary chairman.
Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., grand opening honorary chairman

At the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, she discovered that, while there were Braille books on astronomy, none had pictures to help the reader make sense of what was being described. She realized the planetarium goers had no context in which to fully appreciate the astronomy program. The librarian told her that making the Braille books with pictures was a very expensive proposition. Recognizing that she had a tremendous opportunity to do some extraordinary work, Noreen created a forty-four-page illustrated astronomy book called Touch the Stars. And NASA's Bernhard Beck-Winchatz saw the book at the Alder Planetarium in Chicago and suggested that Noreen do a Braille book on the incredible results of the Hubble space telescope. "And the rest," as they say, "is history."

Just before the ribbon-cutting ceremony here are (left to right) Wally O.Dell, chairman and CEO of Diebold, Inc.;Jason Polanski, a seven-year-old from Maryland;Barbara Walker Loos,president of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults;Mary Ellen Jernigan, NFB executive director of operations;Steve Marriott,senior vice president for cultural and special events, Marriott International, Inc.;Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind; and Robet L. Ehrlich, Jr., governor of the state of Maryland.
Just before the ribbon-cutting ceremony here are (left to right) Wally O’Dell, chairman and CEO of Diebold, Inc.; Jason Polanski, a seven-year-old from Maryland; Barbara Walker Loos, president of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults; Mary Ellen Jernigan, NFB executive director of operations; Steve Marriott, senior vice president for culture and special events, Marriott International, Inc.; Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind; and Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., governor of the state of Maryland.
The Drifters performing in Members Hall.
The Drifters performing in Members Hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A most telling endorsement of that is on the back cover of Touch the Universe, one of the best book endorsements I've ever read. It's from Dr. Kent Cullers, the director of research and development at the SETI Institute. This is the private group that is conducting the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Dr. Cullers writes, "As a radio astronomer and the world's only blind one at that, I feel a powerful intuitive connection with the astonishing exotic objects in the distant universe. When I touch the tactile images of the Hubble northern deep field of galaxies in Touch the Universe, I'm overwhelmed by the same astonishment, a sense of connection with a distant cosmos. It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, for the first time in my career, I get the picture."

At NASA we also get the picture, and I can assure each and every one in this audience, working with the National Federation of the Blind, we will do our utmost to make certain the next generation of explorers will have hundreds and thousands of blind astronomers and engineers and scientists helping to advance our exploration horizons to heights unimagined and frontiers unknown.

A view of the Jernigan Institute from the Byrd Street side.   The fourth floor balcony outside Members Hall can be seen.
A view of the Jernigan Institute from the Byrd Street side. The fourth-floor balcony outside Members Hall can be seen.

We have great work ahead, and we're determined that this community will be a vital contributor in this work. I thank you so much for the opportunity to be with you again, and my hearty congratulations on this extraordinary kick-off of the NFB's Research and Training Institute.

Melanie Sabelhaus, community leader and philanthropist, and Bill Struever, CEO of Struever Brothers Eccles and Rouse, Inc., cochaired this remarkable celebration, and each spoke briefly. Melanie Sabelhaus recognized a number of those who partnered with the NFB to make the celebration possible. Bill Struever paid tribute to those in his construction company who have worked to build this very special structure where people will gather to dream new dreams and bring them to fruition for the benefit of blind people everywhere.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley recognized the members of the Maryland legislature in the audience and then reminisced about touring the Institute site before ground was broken. He assured the crowd that all of Baltimore is proud of the Jernigan Institute and what is being planned.

Representing the future generation of blind adults was twelve-year-old Courtney Despeaux. She articulated what this Institute means for today's blind youth and brought the crowd to its feet. This is what she said:

Governor Ehrlich, Dr. Maurer, other guests and friends, I am proud to have the opportunity tonight to speak for today's generation of blind youth. Dumbledore, the wise schoolmaster from the Harry Potter books, said, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." I am happy that the National Federation of the Blind not only dreams, but turns those dreams into action. This Research and Training Institute, a dream turned into reality, now allows blind youth like me to have even bigger dreams.

As a girl who happens to be blind, I look forward to doing many things in my life. I'd like to help the poor and the elderly and travel to other countries. I would especially love to see Rome one day, and I am determined to meet the Pope. The important thing is that I know that I can do anything. Now my future is that much brighter because blind people who have come before me dared to dream and worked to live out their dreams.

Speaking for all blind youth across the country, thank you.Thanks to our blind leaders, and thanks to all of you who have supported our dreams and helped build them. Thanks to all of you who have come to understand that blind youth are really just kids like anyone else. We like to run, dance, play, learn, grow, and pull a good practical joke now and then.

Many people ask me what I want to do when I grow up. When I think about all the blind people just in this room here today and the possibilities that they represent, I just can't decide. Maybe I'll join the folks at NASA in exploring new horizons; maybe I'll be the first blind TV meteorologist; maybe I'll write the next great series of books; or maybe I'll take Dr. Zaborowski's job when she's old. [applause]

In the words of the Beatles' John Lennon, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." For blind youth across America, thank you for giving us greater opportunities and making our horizons bigger and brighter. Imagine the opportunities. If you'll excuse me now, we need to be getting on with celebrating the dreams of blind youth everywhere.

Dr. Euclid Herie, immediate past president of the World Blind Union, spoke briefly, bringing greetings and congratulations from Canada. He pointed out that three of the six WBU regional presidents (Colin Low from Europe, Kua Cheng Hok from Asia, and himself representing Jim Sanders of this region) were present, marking the importance of this new facility to blind people around the world. He closed his remarks with the hope that the final legacy of the NFB's effort to create this institute would be the pronouncement from those in generations to come that "They built better than they knew."

The next speaker was our friend and colleague Ray Kurzweil, inventor of the world's first reading machine. This is what he said:

In 1974 I approached the National Federation of the Blind to be a partner in creating the first reading machine. This was the start of a thirty-year relationship.

You know, I don't have very many thirty-year relationships. I've been married only twenty-nine years, and I don't have any relationships more successful and more gratifying than my relationship with the National Federation of the Blind, except for my marriage of course.

It was a deeply meaningful experience to work with Dr. Jernigan, Jim Gashel, and a team of blind scientists and engineers from the National Federation of the Blind. It was only because of this unique partnership that the project achieved the progress that it did.

The public's understanding that blind people can do any job and contribute on terms of equality has come a very long way in the past thirty years. And that's thanks to the courageous and tireless efforts of Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, and all of the devoted people of the National Federation of the Blind, many of whom are here tonight at this wonderful celebration. So I'm working with all of you once again to create the next generation-–a pocket-sized reading machine. And we'll be working very closely to accomplish this.

I'm grateful to have worked with this great organization from the early days. All I can say is that I'm with you all the way. And thanks to the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute, the next thirty years will be even more liberating, illuminating, and profound.

When Dr. Zaborowski, the newly appointed executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, came to the microphone, she had people to thank and an exciting announcement to make. This is what she said:

Good evening, fellow Federationists; good evening, guests and partners; thank you all. This is a wonderful night. We the blind of America, together with our partners and friends, launch this new Research and Training Institute built on the hopes and dreams of all of the blind. This is a momentous occasion for all of us, and we have lots of people to thank. We want to thank all of our members and all of our tireless staff, who have worked so long on this project.

A very special thanks to Senator Barbara Mikulski, Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman Ben Cardin, and all of our friends in the United States Congress who led the way towards federal funds of one million dollars for this research institute. And a very special thanks goes to the citizens of Maryland for its 4.5 million grant to this institute, which we believe, because of the support of our wonderful Governor Ehrlich, will be 6 million dollars at the end of this legislative session.

There are many, many other people to thank: Jack Busher and the Institute's policy advisory board, for their long hours of advice and skills in helping us get this institute off the ground. I also want to thank some very important million-dollar campaign donors: of course the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, thank you very much for that support. Thank you to our wonderful friend, Mr. Wally O'Dell, the chairman and CEO of Diebold, Incorporated, for that wonderful gift. And of course our friend Stephen Marriott and the Marriott family for being one of our one-million-dollar contributors to this campaign.

Tonight we launch three inaugural projects of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. We are very proud to announce the first National Federation of the Blind science camp in collaboration with NASA this summer. Imagine a group of talented young blind people working with rocket scientists and blind engineers and teachers and launching a rocket and then studying the data with nonvisual technology.

We are also pleased to announce that we are launching the first in a series of online courses for teachers of the blind and parents of blind children. Imagine online courses that improve the lives of blind people, that use our empowering philosophy of blindness.

And of course tonight we are very proud to say that we are working on the development and commercialization of the first handheld reading machine. Imagine! Imagine accessing print with a small device the size of a digital camera in a matter of seconds. Soon we will have the Kurzweil National Federation of the Blind Reader.

We have worked hard. We have planned our destiny. We have dreamed big dreams, and we are doing big things. Now, let's hear what the blind of America and our friends say about where we go from here.

What followed was a video specially created for this evening. It alternated discussion by groups of blind people about their hopes and dreams for what the new Jernigan Institute will accomplish with statements by inventor Ray Kurzweil, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Director Al Diaz, Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner Joanne Wilson, and retired radio executive and NFB of New Mexico President Art Schreiber. The segments were divided by Whozit tapping his cane. The animated NFB logo provided stunningly effective transitions and continuity. [Cassette only, Here is the sound track of the video.]

Betsy Zaborowski: Ladies and gentlemen, we hope that you are inspired tonight and excited about the future that we are going to build in this new institute. We also want to talk to you about an opportunity to help us with that goal. In your program you will find a card and envelope. We are launching the inaugural fund for this new institute. In the next few months our goal is to raise one million dollars toward the launching and operation of Institute programs. Over 1,300 guests are here this evening. If a thousand of you would pledge $1,000 in 2004, we will have $1,000,000. Please think about it. After this program some of our staff and greeters will be pleased to collect your envelopes, or you can sent them to us. This would be a wonderful way to launch this new Jernigan Institute inaugural Imagination Fund.

Dr. Zaborowski then introduced President Maurer who said the following words:

The number of people who have sacrificed to build the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute is outstanding, and I appreciate all of the sacrifices. Why have we asked all of us to give so much? It is because we believe that there are things worth knowing that we have not yet learned and plans worth making we have not yet found the resources to create. What does the future hold for us, and how do we believe it will be put into concrete form? In specific details we are still exploring what it will be, but in the overall approach this question is easy to answer.

Consider for example the history of technology and specifically the history of the recording of sound. Today we are in the digital age, and unless we think of something better, it is here to stay. Can we think of something better? Perhaps we can; only time will tell. What is the essence of digital technology? With respect to sound, before digital recording we took a wave that represented sound and preserved it. We pressed it into wax, rubber, or vinyl for reproduction. For the best sound we needed to reproduce the best waveform.

Incidentally, in the 1930's the blind encouraged the fledgling recording industry to create recordings with more time in them than recording artists had previously known. Extra-long recordings were needed for the reproduction of talking books. The result was the long-play record, which the blind used for the study of literature and the sighted used for recording concerts. Both the blind and the sighted were happy with the outcome, and Thomas Edison's hope that his recording device might be used to produce books for the blind came true. His application for a patent had included as one of its uses recording literature for the blind.

Digital recordings do not capture the entire range of the wave created by sound. They take bits and pieces of the original and reproduce sound based on an estimate of what it originally was. Only part of the whole is used, yet with digital recording space is saved, transmission of files is enhanced, and manipulation of material is faster and easier than had been true with high-fidelity recording. Hence we are left with the paradoxical digital reality that less is more.

Blind people have been using digital methods of comprehension by necessity from the beginning of time, although we would not have called it by that name. For example, when I travel with a cane, I do not have the same range of information available that my sighted companions have. I use my cane to explore the world in a digital fashion, taking a small bit of information here and another one there. Nevertheless, I string these bits of information together, interpolating an image sufficient for me to find my way from place to place. I do not get all of the information available, but I get enough of it to do what needs to be done.

Already we have begun the process of exploring what does not exist--one prototype of the handheld reading machine, the Kurzweil National Federation of the Blind Reader, is here tonight; the first in a series of courses on blindness offered over the Internet has been created and is ready for use; the initial planning with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and others for the science camp for blind students is underway; and partnerships for the creation of access technology in thousands of other devices are being formed.

It is fair to predict that some of the dreams we have for independence for blind people will be achieved within a reasonably short time. The overall objective of full integration for the blind within society on the basis of equality with all of the training, all of the public understanding, and all of the resources needed to accomplish this goal will demand much more effort and much more time.

As we explore new methods of understanding, the individual experiences of blind people must be a part of the pattern. We as a society must use the talents each of us possesses. If we do, it will be good for the individuals involved, but it will also serve society as a whole. Our effort today is to expand knowledge into realms that have been previously unexplored. We will use the tools that are available--those that we have built and those that we can gather from the efforts of others. But of most importance in our quest for knowledge is the spirit that we bring to the task--a spirit that longs for independence, that seeks to be a part of the community in which we live, that yearns for our talents to be employed in building that community.

We know that none of us can be completely free until all of us have achieved liberty, and we will not rest until we have found a way to give independence to us all. Training, research, and faith: these are the elements of the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute dedicated to the blind men and women who have helped us to know that the people who are here can create an edifice of thought and understanding that could not exist without us.

The glass elevator shafts, the railings of each floor, the metallic ceiling, and the glass front of the Institute can all be seen in this view taken from the first floor, looking up.
The glass elevator shafts, the railings of each floor, the metallic ceiling, and the glass front of the Institute can all be seen in this view taken from the first floor, looking up.

Our Institute is dedicated to Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, who, along with others, founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 and believed in it until the day he died in 1968. It is dedicated to Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who worked to expand the programs of the Federation for almost half a century and who formed the plans for the building in which we are assembled. It is also dedicated to the next generation, who will carry the work into the future. On this day and in this place come together the elements that make us what we are. We remember the people of yesterday, and we are grateful for their faith in themselves and their belief in us; but we think of the people of tomorrow, and we pledge our lives, our efforts, and our imagination to build for ourselves and those who come after us a method of understanding and an approach to achievement that will alter forever the shape of possibility for us all. With this commitment the blind will be free, and nothing on earth can keep us from it.

Betty Woodward, president of the NFB of Connecticut, then presented what her husband Bruce characterized as "a check from us to us" in the amount of $107,960.72, and she assured Dr. Maurer that he could "take it to the bank." President Maurer accepted the check with gratitude, including the seventy-two cents, and announced the completion of the capital campaign. He agreed with Dr. Zaborowski on the importance of setting about to raise the funds necessary to operate the Institute, but assured the crowd with joy filling his voice that it was "great to finish the capital campaign tonight!"

President Maurer then introduced the honorary chairman of the grand opening, Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., by saying that sometimes, when politicians move from one elective office to another, their support for particular causes evaporates. That has not been the case with Governor Ehrlich. This is what the governor said when the applause finally ceased.

Thank you very much. I'm the last thing between you and the ribbon-cutting. By the way, when one capital campaign ends, another one begins. We all know that. Trust me, I'm in politics; I do know that. We do have a long history; you're right, Marc. I have no idea when this relationship began--well, I have a fairly good idea, I guess. It was when I was in the Maryland general assembly. I got to know these folks, and I got to know their issues. We worked on issues together.

Then it was in the Congress, where my activism grew, and our relationship grew even stronger. Issues from Braille, to NEWSLINE, to tax issues, to capital construction, to the workplace, to technology: our relationship grew over the years. I have benefitted in many ways, including Kris Cox, our new secretary, who I believe was here earlier. Kris is terrific. I got to know Kris in Congress, working on blindness-related issues, and now Kris is a member of my cabinet. That is neat. [applause]

I just mentioned the word "opportunity." That's what this building and this organization are all about--the intersection of opportunity and technology. They are interchangeable today, which is why I am so excited about the mission of this historic organization and this wonderful new place. I am also proud of the state's investment of six million dollars. I'll take complete credit for all those dollars. I'll share it with Governor Glendening, actually.

I will close with this. I want to thank you all for being here tonight. This is an incredibly impressive night, and I wanted to be here. But I wanted to thank the business community. As we know, it is somewhat popular in our culture today to beat up on business. We have lived through some of the issues on Wall Street and some greed-related issues, and it becomes rather easy to beat up on corporate America. Yet I attended a lunch not too long ago where corporate leaders around Baltimore and the state of Maryland were asked to help this organization. As is the case in this area, the corporate community always comes through. The corporate community is always there because we have a very strong community and a very strong history of giving from that community. So I want to thank everybody who came through when we asked for help in our not so subtle way.

Thank you all for being here tonight; this is a wonderful night, and Godspeed.

Just before cutting the ribbon, surrounded by representatives of the million-dollar contributors; honorary grand opening chairman, Governor Ehrlich; Mrs. Jernigan; and an energetic and curious blind child representing the blind of tomorrow, President Maurer announced the board of directors' decision to name the institute the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. He then cut the ribbon, and with that momentous act the program ended, and the entertainment began.

The evening concluded with an unforgettable rhythm and blues review featuring Ali Ollie Woodson of the Temptations, the Winstons Orchestra, the Drifters, the Platters, and Major Harris, formerly of the Delfonics, with Pat Palmer and Johnney Smalls. These performers were not only talented musicians but truly remarkable entertainers. They invited the audience to sing along with favorites like "Under the Boardwalk" and "My Girl." They even got volunteers up onto the stage to sing with them. The room was too full of chairs and tables for anyone to have room to dance, but that was all that was missing from the show.

It was a memorable close to a wonderful evening and a stirring beginning to the work of the NFB Jernigan Institute. As the evening ended, we recognized that the real challenge was just beginning. As Dr. Zaborowski wrote in the program: "We have dreamed. We have planned. We have built. Now we devote ourselves to a future full of Imagination."

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