Braille Monitor October 1986
(The following presentation was made by Marc Maurer on Thursday evening, July 3, 1986, at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.)
Let me offer an ancient and wise proverb: "If you give a person a fish, you can feed him or her for a day. If you teach that same person how to fish, you can feed him or her for a lifetime."
No individual in the history of the National Federation of the Blind has taught more blind people how to fish, worked harder, loved more or given more generously of time, talent, energy or resources than Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. He it was who founded this movement, and his spirit is present with us this evening. College professor, author, noted Constitutional lawyer, chairman of a major department at the University of California, public servant, brilliant and blind, Dr. tenBroek was an orator noted for his eloquence, a thinker noted for his wisdom and a leader noted for his accomplishment.
His great work in teaching the blind of this nation how to fish and his love were the powerful forces which brought hope into the barren world of the blind in 1940 and which showed the way for the founding of the organized blind movement. His personal characteristics have also provided the example for the Federation lifestyle which we live each day throughout the year.
Beginning in 1968, Dr. Jernigan, like Dr. tenBroek before him, took up the torch and has led the blind of America into a new generation--a generation marked by self-reliance and carried forward through self-determination. He, too, has taught many of us how to fish and fish well.
In recognition of the powerful impact of Dr. tenBroek's life upon each of us, we have established the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The Award is to be presented only to members of the National Federation of the Blind, to front-line soldiers in the movement who, through their teachings, their hard work, and their love, have made substantial contributions to the progress of the blind toward equality and first-class citizenship.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award is not necessarily presented each year. Rather it is to be given only so often as one of our own has earned it.
This year the Award Committee has identified and selected such an individual. It is difficult to find a Federationist who has demonstrated more public spirit, more zeal for the cause, or more unselfish dedication to the movement than tonight's award winner. Both in the movement and out, this individual is a leader with capacity, a citizen with conviction and a fighter with determination.
Tonight's recipient has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for many years, and he has also found time to be active in church and civic organizations. His hard work at the local, state, and national levels demonstrates the fact that election to high office makes no difference in terms of dedication, commitment, or sacrifice. This individual has represented our national office at state conventions since 1968.
He has assisted affiliates throughout the nation. In 1975 and 1976, as a volunteer in the movement, he wrote all of the briefs and did other legal work necessary to secure the right of blind sheltered shop employees to unionize. Starting in 1976, he challenged the insurance industry in America and represented the Federation in our effort to eliminate discrimination against the blind in the sale of insurance. In 1978 he accepted a new challenge--to help stamp out employment discrimination against the blind which had become flagrant within the Social Security Administration.
In 1984 this dedicated Federationist and his family moved to Alaska where he now directs that state's orientation center for blind adults. By now I am sure most of you know that tonight's recipient is Jim Omvig.
In a feature news story dated June 1st, 1986, an Anchorage Daily News reporter wrote, "If ever there was a role model suited to his task, Jim Omvig is the man...." He works hard and expects no less of his students.
When Mr. Omvig assumed the directorship of Alaska's Sensory Impairment Center on October 15, 1984, he found an agency which was underdeveloped. It had few staff, little funding, and no facility in which blind people could receive the kind of training which they have the right to expect. Today, little more than a year and a half later, the agency is fully funded and fully staffed. And it has a new facility which any state could point to with pride. I had the pleasure of participating in the dedication ceremony last November along with Alaska's Governor and our own Federation leaders in Alaska. Also, the Sensory Impairment Center has changed its name to the Louise Rude Center for Blind and Deaf Adults, and it is now a totally separate entity rather than a part of a much larger umbrella agency. The future is bright with promise for the blind of Alaska.
Fellow Federationists, I am proud to have the opportunity to present the 1986 Jacobus tenBroek Award to this frontline soldier in the movement, to our distinquished colleague and our friend, Jim Omvig.
Mr. Omvig, I now present you with this engraved plaque which reads:
National Federation of the Blind
JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD
JAMES H. OMVIG
July 3, 1986
For your dedication, commitment and sacrifice on behalf of the blind of this nation. Your contributions must be measured not in steps, but by miles; not by individual experiences but by your impact on the lives of the blind of this generation. Whenever we have asked, you have answered. We call you our colleague with respect; we call you our friend with love.