Braille Monitor February 1985
by Kenneth Jernigan
For more than ten years we have been sending out from the National Office of the Federation presidential releases on cassette. We try to keep these to twenty minutes or under and attempt to send them on a monthly basis. The first presidential release was recorded November 12, 1973. It was twenty-eight minutes and thirty-five seconds long. Each release ends with a peculiar style of witticism--a style that is easily recognized and either long remembered or soon forgotten. For example, this is what appeared at the end of the first release: What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.
November 29, 1984, marked a milestone: For on that date presidential release 100 was recorded. Releases one through ninety-nine constituted combined recording time of thirty-four hours, twenty two minutes, and thirty-nine seconds. The average length of these releases was twenty minutes, fifty-one seconds. Release 100 was right on target, being twenty minutes and fifty-three seconds. Of the first 100 the longest presidential release (forty-five minutes and twenty-four seconds) was number 45,made September 17, 1978. It reported on the September 16, 1978, meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind in Los Angeles. This meeting dealt with the beginning stages of the California affiliate problem and helped pave the way for the chartering system in the Federation, which has proved to be one of the most successful steps we have ever taken toward full maturity as an organization and a movement. The shortest release was number fifteen, recorded May 5, 1975. It dealt primarily with the organizing efforts in South Dakota and Wisconsin which gave us affiliates in those two states and completed our drive to have affiliates in all fifty states. This release was eight minutes and forty-five seconds long.
The first release recorded, duplicated, and mailed from our headquarters at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore was number fifty-six, made January 17, 1980. This release was one of the most historic we have ever recorded since it symbolized a new era in Federation growth, strength, and progress. The National Center for the Blind is now generally recognized as the best facility serving the blind in the nation. Even more important, it is not a governmental or private agency but a center owned by the blind themselves. I presume I need not say (but I will anyway) that I have enjoyed making the presidential releases. I have enjoyed reporting on the work we have done, and I have also enjoyed the humor--if, indeed, it can be dignified by such an appellation. Perhaps my favorite joke of them all is: They called it the fiddle hotel because it was such a vile inn. Or perhaps it is this one: Is a dog better dressed in the winter or the summer? In the summer; for in the winter he has a coat, but in the summer he has a coat and pants. But enough! After all one can take only so much. Monitor readers would be surprised at how many jokes I receive from Federationists for possible use on the presidential releases that have already been used. Ah, well, I forget too; for when we' compiled the presidential release joke book ( The Bell, The Clapper, And The Cord ) I found that I had duplicated more than once.
As is the case with most of the work I do in the Federation, making presidential releases is a real joy. On presidential release 100, for instance, I quoted from Oliver Wendell Holmes. The quotation was only tangential to anything in the release, the only connection being the number 100. However, I have always liked it, so I used it:
Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and a truth.
This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it, you're welcome, no extra charge.
Yes, making the presidential releases is fun, but it is also serious business. For the past ten years the presidential releases have chronicled the gains and losses, the victories and defeats, and the hopes and dreams of the blind of the nation. They have told a story of unbelievable effort and achievement. May the second one hundred releases record an even more impressive account of progress toward our goal of full acceptance and first-class status in society.