Braille Monitor                                                                           October 1986


National Federation of the Blind Convention 1986

The convention of the National Federation of the Blind which was held in Kansas City, Missouri, from June 28, 1986, through July 5, 1986, was one of the most significant in the organization's history. A new President was elected; a critical discussion with the nation's airlines occurred; major revisions to the Constitution were made; scholarships totaling almost $100,000.00 were awarded; members of Congress and key officials of the Executive Branch of government came to speak and listen; new employment opportunities for the blind were explored; and the Federation reviewed its position and made plans for the future. It was a time of renewing commitment and examining goals. The convention began on Saturday, June 28, with a seminar for Parents of Blind Children and concluded on Saturday, July 5, with a seminar on Job Opportunities for the Blind. Between was a week packed with activities, enthusiasm, and interest.

The setting for the convention was the elegant Hyatt Regency Hotel at the nationally known Crown Center in Kansas City, but in view of the size of the crowd two other hotels (The Phillips and The Americana) were also used. The transportation problem was solved by having buses shuttling among the hotels on a 24-hour a day basis. Across the street from the Hyatt were the numerous shops and restaurants of the Crown Center, and farther afield were such attractions as Stephenson's Apple Farm and The Golden Ox Restaurant. There were meetings throughout every day and into the evenings, and there were hospitality and renewal of friendships. In short, it was a vintage Federation convention. On Saturday, June 28, the Merchants Division conducted a seminar on Vending and Business for State Leaders and Merchants. On Saturday evening there was a training session for interpreters for the deaf-blind.

By Sunday, June 29 the convention was in full swing. There were (among others) meetings of the Pre-authorized Check Plan (PAC) Committee, the Dog Guide Committee, the Music Committee (which this year became a Division), the Public Relations Committee, the Committee on the Senior Blind, the White Cane & Affiliate Finance Committee, the Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Fund Committee, and the Committee on Library Services. Also, on Sunday afternoon there was a meeting of the Resolutions Committee. This has come to be one of the high points of the convention. 1986 was no exception. With over 100 people in the room (often participating in discussion from the audience) the Committee acted on 35 resolutions, recommending 31 for passage. Two resolutions were withdrawn and two were defeated by vote of the convention. All of the resolutions adopted by the convention are reprinted elsewhere in this issue of the Monitor.

At nine o'clock Monday morning, June 30, the annual pre-convention meeting of the Board of Directors was held with more than a thousand Federationists present. After roll call it was announced that the terms of all of the officers and six of the board members would expire during the convention. President Jernigan announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection. It was noted that three former board members (Harvey Webb, Uldine T'nelander, and Audrey Tait) had died during the past year, and there was a xoment of silent meditation in their Temory.

The President submitted to the Board for consideration Resolution 86-101 (reprinted elsewhere in this issue,) which was unanimously recommended to the convention for passage. Kansas and Missouri were co-hosts for the 1986 convention, and the two state Presidents (Gary Wunder of Missouri and Dick Edlund of Kansas) officially welcomed the convention. As part of his presentation Mr. Wunder read a statement from the Governor of Missouri commending the Federation for its good work and welcoming it to the state.

The twenty-four scholarship winners were introduced to the Board and the assembled delegates. It was announced that the Scholarship Committee would meet Wednesday evening to make final determination concerning the scholarship grants to be made to each winner. It was noted that revisions to the constitution would be considered on Wednesday morning, and the financing of the movement was discussed. The names of the winners of the Associates Contest were read, and all those who had recruited more than fifty associates were asked to come to the stage to receive red, white, and blue ribbons.

The top fifteen recruiters were: 1. Allen (Sandy) Sanderson, Alaska, 459 associates; 2. William Isaacs, Illinois, 226 associates; 3. Karen Mayry, South Dakota, 178; 4. Tom Stevens, Missouri, 175; 5. Frank Lee, Alabama, 105; 6. Michael Taylor, Utah, 102; 7. Betty Hendricks, California, 98; 8. Darrel Nather, Alaska, 68; 9. Sharon Gold, California, 66; 10. Kenneth Jernigan, Maryland, 65; 11. Richard Porter, West Virginia, 60; 12. Eugene Shaw, Connecticut, 60; 13. Michael Floyd, Nebraska, 55; 14. Verla Kirsch, Iowa, 51; and 15. Gary Thompson, Connecticut, 50.

The top ten states in the recruiting of associates (members-at-large of the Federation who contributed at least ten dollars during the year) were: 1. Alaska, 574 associates; 2. Illinois, 343 associates; 3. California, 290; 4. Missouri, 254; 5. Maryland, 213; 6. South Dakota, 192; 7. Connecticut, 148; 8. Alabama, 125; 9. Utah, 123; and 10. West Virginia, 76.

It was announced that the Associates Contest for the coming year would be conducted differently from the contests of previous years. The first prize for the contest now in progress will be $600.00; the second prize will be $400.00; and there will be eight additional prizes of $100.00 each. For each associate recruited the name of the recruiter will be placed in a box, and a drawing will be made at the 1987 convention to determine winners. Thus, an individual recruiting a hundred associates will have four times the chance to win a prize than a person w^o recruits twenty-five. Recognition will still be given to top recruiters through the awarding of ribbons and the publicizing of rank.

A new project to help fund the movement was discussed by Herbert Magin, who is organizing and administering the program. Called the DIG (Deferred Insurance Giving) Program, this project contemplates that Federationists and their friends will buy a life insurance policy with the Federation as beneficiary. Those over forty are asked to buy a policy with a face value of at least $10,000, and those under forty a policy of at least $25,000 face value. The cost is extremely reasonable, and the members reacted to the program with enthusiasm. Before the week was out, 125 Federationists had signed up, and more have done so since the convention. For information contact: Herbert Magin, 7801 York Road, Suite 315, Baltimore, Maryland 21204, phone (301) 296-7733.

Before the adjournment of the Board it was noted that Fred Schroeder (President of the National Association of Blind Educators and a member of the National Board) had recently been appointed Director of the newly created New Mexico Commission for the Blind. It was also noted that Peggy Pinder (Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa) is running for State Senate in the 27th Senatorial District of Iowa. Craig Kiser(who had planned to be present at the convention and is a long-time Federationist) is running for state-wide office in Florida. He is a candidate for the office of State Comptroller.

Divisions, groups, and committees met on Monday afternoon and Monday evening. The general business sessions began on Tuesday morning with welcoming ceremonies and the roll call of states. On Tuesday afternoon the Presidential Report was given. This was followed by a panel on air travel and the blind. Marc Maurer spoke on policy issues and consumer rights. The next to speak was Congressman Nick Rahall, who is a member of the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation of the U. S. House of Representatives. Other speakers on the panel were Joseph Hallissey, President of the American Society of Travel Agents; Ira Laster, Senior Program Coordinator of the Office of Transportation, Regulatory Affairs, U. S. Department of Transportation; Charles Ehlert, Director of Public Relations for Ozark Airlines; and Gabriel Phillips, Executive Vice President of the Air Transport Association of America. At times the discussion was heated, but the interchange was both instructive and worthwhile.

The Wednesday morning session began with elections. The following people were elected as officers: Marc Maurer, Maryland, President; Diane McGeorge, Colorado, First Vice President; Peggy Pinder, Iowa, Second Vice President; Allen Harris, Michigan, Secretary; and Richard Edlund, Kansas, Treasurer. Five of the six board members elected were incumbents: Steve Benson, Illinois; Gharles Brown, Virginia; Glenn Crosby, Texas; Robert Eschbach, Ohio; and Joyce Scanlan, Minnesota. Ronald Byrd of Texas, who had served with credit, was replaced on the Board by Frank Lee of Alabama. Six board members were not up for election since their terms do not expire until 1987: Sid Allen, West Virginia; Don Capps, South Carolina; Theresa Herron, New Hampshire; Betty Niceley, Kentucky; Fred Schroeder, New Mexico; and Gary Wunder, Missouri.

When the results of the election were announced, president-elect Maurer spoke in part as follows:

"The presidency of the National Federation of the Blind is a sacred trust. It carries with it both great honor and tremendous responsibility. When I joined this organization in 1969, Dr. Jernigan was our President. My first convention was dynamic and exciting. Like Dr. tenBroek before him, Dr. Jernigan stayed on the cutting edge. He combined hard decision-making with great compassion. Dr. Jernigan's Presidency has been characterized by imagination, enthusiasm, love for others, and the drive for success. And there are other things: We never lose because we never quit. Sometimes there are minor and temporary setbacks--but that is just what they are, minor and temporary. If one approach doesn't work, we think up another. If the first effort isn't successful, we alter the strategy and try again. Our problems are solved because we never leave them until they are solved. This is what Dr. Jernigan's Presidency has meant. This is our heritage--the responsibilities which you as members and I as President are pledged to meet.

"In the National Federation of the Blind we give our presidents great power. We expect them to use it wisely and well. But use it they must--making plans, taking risks, and making progress. I am glad that I have been a part of our movement while Dr. Jernigan was President. It goes without saying that I am also extremely glad that he will continue to be an integral part of and a moving force in the Presidency which is about to begin. This organization is the single most important factor in the struggle by the blind for equality and independence. I intend that we shall go forward without interruption. In a word, under this Presidency we must continue to be the National Federation of the Blind."

This statement by president-elect Maurer brought an enthusiastic response from the membership. President Jernigan then said:

"Our opponents externally and our organization internally will probably not see much change in what we've been doing in this organization. In the future as in the past, I intend to go ahead and act when I need to on behalf of the organization. Marc Maurer and I are going to act as one in many things. Marc Maurer is going to act, and I'm going to back what he acts in and support what he does; and I'm going to take pride in the accomplishments that he makes. But what really is going to happen is this: We're going to have a smooth transition in the Presidency-- which is why I stepped out as early as I did. Hopefully if my health holds up and if things go as I believe they will go, there will be an orderly and a rather long transition. There will be things immediately that will be changed. There will be many things that won't. Marc will plan next year's agenda. He will preside at next year's convention. He will make appointments as to who will go to state conventions. There will be many other things that he will do. He will be dealing with more and more of the correspondence (although I will deal with some of it). But you must understand that when Marc acts, he will be acting for me as well as for himself. And when I act, I will be acting for him as well as for me.

"Marc isn't going to do things exactly as I did them. You know that, and I know that. I'm also human enough and strong-willed enough to know that there are going to be times when he is going to do things that I would have done in another way. There will be times when I will feel: Well, I wish he had done it differently.' That's bound to be. I hope to keep in mind when that happens that he must be supported--and supported fully--and I will do that.

"The success of this Presidency will depend on several things. First, it will depend on my maturity and my sincerity in saying what I have said to you. It will depend on my love for the organization, my willingness to push Marc forward, and my determination to do conscientiously and in spirit everything which I can to help make his Presidency a success. I tell you that I will do that. It will also depend on you. You have to support him in the same way you have supported me. There are going to be some people who will test Marc and see whether he is really strong enough and has grit enough to say no--or whether he is compassionate enough to know when to say yes. You have to support him. We have to support him as an organization.

"But above all, whether Marc Maurer will be successful as President of the National Federation of the Blind will depend on him. We can give him the Presidency. In fact, we have given it to him, but we can't keep the Presidency for him. He must do that for himself. I believe we have made the best choice we could have made. I believe that the organization will be in good hands with Marc Maurer as leader. And I believe that the people outside of this organization who think that, because I am ceasing to be President, there will be a time of indecision and weakness, which they can exploit, will be sorely disappointed.

"You have my unconditional pledge that I will do everything that I know how to do (with every bit of energy that I have) to make this organization in the future even better than it has been in the past, and to make Marc Maurer's Presidency a success. I will try to behave with all of the love and maturity that I know how to muster."

After the elections the remainder of Wednesday morning was taken up with consideration and revision of the Constitution. The convention was adjourned, and all of those present were appointed as a Committee of the Whole. The Constitution was read and considered sentence by sentence, section by section, and article by article. After more than two hours of discussion the convention reconvened and adopted the revised Constitution. It was the first time since 1970 that the entire Constitution had been reviewed and revised by the convention.

Wednesday afternoon and evening were taken up with tours, committee meetings, and social activities. Thursday (beginning at 8:30 in the morning) was a full day of program activities. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, spoke on the impact of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings on library services for the blind. Charles Young, Administrator of the Oregon Commission for the Blind and President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, talked about the activities of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. The leaders of the New Mexico affiliate talked about the establishment of the new Commission for the Blind in that state, and the leaders of the Louisiana affiliate told the delegates how the blind of Louisiana are leading the way in their own rehabilitation. Both presentations were inspiring and enthusiastic. Dennis Wyant, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Counseling Services for the Veterans Administration, talked about programs for blinded veterans; and Gerald Kass, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Braille Institute of America, spoke on the topic: "Return to Jericho." Clarence Thomas, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Chairman of the Interagency Committee on Handicapped Employees, talked about options and opportunities in Federal employment. In one of the most inspiring presentations of the convention, Elijah Cummings, Chairman of the Black Caucus of the General Assembly of the State of Maryland, spoke on the topic: "Black Civil Rights, White Civil Rights: The Nature of Freedom." During the day presentations were made by three members of Congress: James C. Slattery, Congressman for the 2nd District of Kansas; Dan Glickman, Congressman for the 4th District of Kansas; and James A. Traficant, Jr., Congressman for the 17th District of Ohio.

The Thursday afternoon session began with a presentation by Patricia Owens, Associate Commissioner for Disability of the Social Security Administration. These annual presentations by top officials of the Social Security Administration have been an important part of our recent conventions and have brought many positive results. One of the high points of the convention was the panel on Thursday afternoon featuring some of our own members discussing their careers. Judy Sanders, Assistant Director for the District Office for Congressman Gerry Sikowski of Minnesota, talked about working in a Congressional office. Allen Harris (Chairman of the Department of Social Studies at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, Michigan) talked about his work as a teacher and wrestling coach in a public high school. Peggy Pinder, who is a candidate for election to the State Senate in Iowa, talked about the challenge of seeking elective office. Sandy Kelly, one of the leaders of the Colorado affiliate, talked about the breakthroughs for blind people who want to work as court reporters. And to conclude this impressive panel, Arthur Schreiber (Vice President of Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.; and General Manager of KOB AM-FM, Albuquerque, New Mexico) talked about his work as a broadcast executive. The panel was the tangible expression of Federationism in action and the embodiment of the philosophy which motivates our movement.

At the opening of the Thursday afternoon session we had an unexpected and pleasant addition to the program. Actor Eric Douglas (son of Kirk Douglas) appeared before the convention to make radio and television public service announcements for the National Federation of the Blind. He was in Kansas City starring in the play "Butterflies are Free," and came to the convention hall to make public service announcements for us on stage while the convention was in session. The announcements are now in the process of preparation and should be ready for release soon. After making the public service spots, Eric Douglas announced that he had become a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and was an associate.

As usual, the banquet on Thursday night was the climax of the convention. Friday was taken up with resolutions, financial matters, and internal business; and as the convention drew to a close, plans were already being made to go to Phoenix in 1987.

It was one of the best conventions in Federation history--one that will be long remembered and that will have a major impact on the lives of the blind of the nation.