Peggy Elliott Jim Omvig
Deane Blazie Ron and Bruce Gardner
James Skelton Marc Maurer
Jim Gashel Allen Harris
Norm Gardner Hal Priser and Ted Hart
[LEAD PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A number of Federation leaders are pictured on these two pages, all wearing cowboy hats. Several of them are wearing the same hat, the one given as part of the grand prize at the close of the Banquet. Pictured here are Peggy Elliott, Jim Omvig, Deane Blazie, Ron Gardner, Bruce Gardner, James Skelton, Marc Maurer, Jim Gashel, Allen Harris, Norm Gardner, Hal Priser, and Ted Hart.
CAPTION: When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Texas. . . .
1998 Convention Roundup
by Barbara Pierce
Many Federationists arrived at the Hyatt Regency DFW in early July convinced that they knew what to expect from the 1998 convention. After all, this was our third convention since 1990 at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Hyatt. The weather would be hot and the hotel staff friendly and helpful. The quarter-mile-long corridor between the two towers would grow longer as the week continued. Sullivan O'Shaughnessy's diner and the Sports Bar would serve delicious food into the small hours to Federationists too busy to find dinner earlier. The elevators would be crowded, and the stairwells would be hot but faster than any other way of getting up and down the two towers.
All of these things were certainly true, but what no one was quite prepared for was the fact that in many ways this convention would be, quite simply, unforgettable. As always lots of people were attending their first convention, but many others had made great efforts to return to Dallas. One of these was Mrs. tenBroek, who grows more delicate each year but also more determined. As always she lent charm and dignity to every conversation in which she took part, and her presence lent continuity to the entire event.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel tenBroek and Kenneth Jernigan]
If asked to describe this convention in a few words, one would have to say that it was characterized by deep love, growing determination, and self-confidence. Undoubtedly Dr. Jernigan's courageous fight against lung cancer inspired everyone and called forth the best in each one of us as we march together toward the millennium. In short, this convention turned out to be the embodiment and expression of all that is best in each of us and in this movement we love.
A good example of the kind of thing that happened throughout the week was the experience of many of the 150 or so families of blind children who attended this year's convention. Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, reports that more networking than ever before took place during the week. She points to the attendance of a growing number of professionals truly sharing the NFB's commitment to quality instruction and positive attitudes. These inspiring teachers offered their expertise to parents and kids alike throughout the week. Added to the discussions and brain-storming that always take place among families and Federationists, we seem to have hit a new high of usefulness to blind kids.
At least two teens who had become blind within the previous month attended this year's convention. Their families came with them, and they all learned and observed and took home new hope for the future. Can you imagine a more powerful antidote for the tragedy of sudden blindness than cane-travel instruction by instructors like Joe Cutter and competent blind adults, Braille advice from teachers and parents who believe in the importance of Braille, and the inspiration of meeting and observing hundreds of successful blind adults?
As always family activities on July 4 were inspiring and thought-provoking. Parents and educators enjoyed a morning-long seminar of presentations from Federation leaders, professionals, parents, and kids. The afternoon was jammed with exciting workshops and a first-time-ever walk-in question-and-answer session for parents. To give you an idea of the range and importance of the activities, here is the list of workshops, several of which were presented twice:
Beginning Braille for Parents
Teaching Braille to Students with Partial Sight: Rationale,
Methodologies, and Materials
Technology from the Point of View of Blind Youth
Sports and Recreation: Blind Kids Belong Too
Keeping Up with the Rest of the World: Tips to Help Blind Kids
Speed Up and Keep Up
While adult activities occupied parents during the day on Saturday, blind and sighted kids in NFB Camp learned about cooking and prepared their own lunches using toaster ovens and microwaves borrowed from local NFB members. Also during Saturday fourteen teens, eleven of them blind, participated in a class devoted to the fine points of babysitting. Carla McQuillan, who helped instruct the class and who also planned and supervised NFB Camp during the week, reports that class graduates all got babysitting jobs afterward, and all volunteered throughout the week in NFB Camp.
At 5:00 p.m. parents gathered to watch a cane parade by all the youngsters who had spent the preceding hour decorating canes for the Fourth of July. Blind and sighted children alike used stars, streamers, and sparkles to adorn their canes. Sighted youngsters continued to admire and use their masterpieces in NFB Camp throughout the week, and blind kids discovered, some for the first time, that a white cane really can be an object of pride and independence.
Meanwhile teens were gathering for a dance and contemporary dance lessons. That evening they took part in a scavenger hunt that sent them all around both towers of the hotel to gather items and to allow them to get acquainted with each other and the facility. Family hospitality gave parents and kids (not otherwise occupied) a chance to get to know each other and talk about the day and other issues of importance to them. All in all, it was a wonderful beginning to the convention for families.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB campers and
their chaperons enjoy lunch at the dude ranch.
CAPTION: Nikki White of Maryland rides one of the ranch horses.]
On Monday forty youngsters, along with teen and adult chaperons took a trip to a dude ranch, where the older ones rode horses and the younger ones had a hay ride. Everyone enjoyed hot dogs and s'mores, though the camp fire might have been more attractive if Texas had not been already blazing with the triple-digit temperatures that lasted all week. The children had a wonderful time climbing down to and back up from the creek, using outcrops and roots to clamber along the steep bank. It was an unforgettable day for ranch employees and visitors alike.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Circle dancing was one of the activities at NFB Camp.]
NFB Camp just gets better every year. This year about sixty kids were enrolled each day, and the schedule of things to do and for visitors to enjoy was so crowded that it was hard to fit in last-minute opportunities. Daniel Lamonds, president of the Darlington County Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina, was a particular favorite. Each day he did something different in camp, and out of the sales of music tapes to NFB Camp families, he made contributions to the NFB treasury.
In addition to the parents' and kids' activities, all sorts of other workshops, seminars, meetings, and demonstrations were taking place throughout Saturday, the Fourth of July. The most popular, of course, was the Job Opportunities for the Blind National Seminar for blind job seekers on Saturday afternoon. President Maurer opened the seminar with the announcement that the JOB Program, as we have come to know it, is now at an end. The U.S. Department of Labor changed the requirements for programs it would consider funding this year, so the NFB altered its proposal. Shortly before the convention we received a grant to begin an exciting new program, but as far as we can now tell, the JOB Seminar, the Employers Bulletins, and JOB Bulletins have ended. If this turns out to have been the final JOB National Seminar, it was a spectacular finish. Presentations by a blind trucker, blind paralegals, a blind occupational therapy assistant in a rural area, and a blind linguistic anthropologist followed each other in rapid succession. More than 250 Federationists took advantage of the presentations and asked interesting and insightful questions.
The JOB breakfasts were also an unqualified success again this year. Twenty-five took place. One day as many as ninety people turned out for structured discussion in their field of interest. We will have to think long and hard about ways to replace the quality networking that has taken place as a result of JOB contacts. Again this year, as in past years, a number of contacts took place that seem destined to end in employment matches. The coming JOB Program will undoubtedly be extremely helpful to blind people, but we owe a great debt of thanks to the Department of Labor and to Lorraine Rovig and the others who have guided the JOB Program through the past twenty years for all they have done to increase job opportunities for blind Americans.
A number of other groups met on Saturday. Division meetings and seminars for writers, guide dog users, deaf-blind people, and secretaries and transcribers were scheduled during the afternoon and evening. Several other committees and groups took advantage of the relative calm of the day before the official beginning of the convention to conduct meetings. And workshops on using the NFB computer bulletin board and Windows 95 also drew sizable crowds. In addition, demonstrations of Humanware's Braille Companion, Blazie's Braille notetakers, the Myna Corporation's new Myna computer, and NEWSLINE® and America's Jobline® took place throughout the day.
After dinner the Texas affiliate hosted a wonderful evening of fiddle music and dancing. This Texas hospitality set the tone for the convention and allowed folks to meet new people and visit with old friends.
Sunday, July 5, was the first official day of the convention. Sensory Safari opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30, and convention registration and the exhibit hall opened their doors at about the same time. A television news crew followed several children around as they examined a number of animals from a snapping turtle to a bear on his hind legs with his mouth wide open. Federationist Ted Hart's latest trophy was also on display. This was the head, skin, and claws of the bear he recently shot in Canada. Sensory Safari remained open on Sunday and Monday, and a number of volunteers from the local group were present to make sure that everyone who came by had a chance to examine all the trophies on display.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ted Hart shows an admiring Hazel tenBroek the bear he shot in Canada]
As always, registration ran smoothly. People hardly had time to discover what was being sold by hopeful NFB peddlers working their way up and down the lines before marshals had guided them into the ballroom and one of four concurrent registration stations, where a name tag was printed, event tickets purchased, and an agenda in print, Braille, or cassette dispensed. After that came quick stops for PAC, Associate, and SUN ribbons before heading out for a look at exhibits.
This year was Miss Scheuermann's first year to supervise the exhibit hall, and by all accounts she did a splendid job. Each booth was numbered, and print and Braille handouts described the layout of the room and listed the fifty-one outside exhibiters and affiliate and division displays, together with a brief description of what could be found at each location. The crowds were as large as always, but at least everyone knew what they were looking for and approximately where to find it.
Sunday afternoon marked the meeting of the Resolutions Committee. Fifteen resolutions made it through the committee and to the floor of the convention for action later in the week. The full texts of these resolutions appear elsewhere in this issue.
Immediately following the Resolutions Committee meeting was a new event. The National Association of Blind Lawyers conducted a mock trial as a fund-raising and educational activity. National Board member and practicing attorney Charlie Brown acted as judge, and Anthony Thomas, a public defender in Chicago, and Scott LaBarre, President of the lawyers division and an attorney in private practice in Denver, were the council for the plaintiffs. Paul Kay and Larry Povinelli, who are law partners in Washington, D.C., served as counsel for the defense.
The case was a rather free reenactment of the suit Nadine and Steve Jacobson brought against United Airlines with the help of the NFB in 1985. Nadine Jacobson and Tom Scanlan played themselves, and Bennett Prows played an actual Frontier Airlines executive who testified for the plaintiff in the original case. Witnesses for the defense were Peggy Elliott (who was the Jacobsons' attorney in the original case and who won it for the good guys) playing a United Airlines executive. Allen Harris played the arresting police officer, and Barbara Pierce played the Louisville gate agent who called the police. As street theater the trial may have lacked polish, but everyone in the room enjoyed it hugely. The lawyers have already announced that they have begun planning the mock trial to take place at the Atlanta convention.
Sunday evening and Monday afternoon and evening were even more crowded than usual with meetings, seminars, and receptions. Thirty separate committee and division activities took place. In addition, a number of groups hosted receptions of various kinds. Here are a very few highlights. A new division (which had formerly been a group, the National Association of Blind Piano Technicians) was organized. The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, which was organized at last year's convention, attracted sixty to its meeting this year and now boasts 200 members. The new Professional Blind Journalists Group heard a fascinating presentation by Bob Ray Sanders, the Executive Editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who clearly understood the parallels between the problems faced by black and disabled journalists. Journalists from Hong Kong, Cypress, and the United Kingdom took part in the meeting.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind Players gave two performances of yet another original play by Jerry Whittle on Monday evening. The title was The Sky is Blue and Black. It was a romantic comedy about a blind woman's fight to marry the man she loves.
The first official convention session is traditionally the meeting of the NFB Board of Directors, which took place at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, July 6. President Maurer brought the meeting to order on time and led the organization in a moment of silence in memory of the members who have died in the past year. The day was Dr. tenBroek's birthday, and his wife Hazel was with us this year and was warmly greeted by the convention. President Maurer reviewed the list of members of the Board whose positions were up for election. This included all five officers and six of the twelve at-large members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of Texas President Tommy Craig]
After greetings and several announcements by Tommy Craig, President of the NFB of Texas, Dr. Jernigan took the mike for a number of announcements. The audience's greeting was tumultuous as, in fact, it was every time he addressed the convention during the week. After reviewing a number of the details of convention activities, he urged everyone to submit jokes for the joke books we use in fund-raising. He read letters illustrating the value of these books and the way they have led to direct public education. Jokes like the ones that appear at the end of Presidential Releases can be submitted in writing to President Maurer at any time.
Dr. Jernigan then reviewed the forty-four NEWSLINE® sites now up and running in the United States and Canada and said that the number should top fifty by the end of the year. He announced that the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults is continuing its effort to see that blind children have their own Braille books. Animorphs is currently number fifteen on the New York Times best seller list. Each month the American Action Fund will produce a volume of this series in Braille. Those interested in adding the names of blind children to this list should contact Barbara Cheadle at the National Center for the Blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Maurer displays the medicine stick while Toby Longface looks on.]
A number of presentations were then made. Toby Longface, a member of the Chiricahua Tribe of the Apache Nation and a new member of the NFB from Arizona, explained that he had made a medicine stick for Dr. Jernigan last winter, and now he has specially made another one for Dr. Maurer. The stick is over five feet long with an eagle's head carved at the end of the crook. It has feathers and a dream-catcher, and the words "Dr. Marc Maurer" are carved on it. The medicine stick is now on display in President Maurer's office.
A number of affiliate presidents came to the platform to announce gifts to the national organization. Gary Wunder presented $10,000 from Missouri. Diane McGeorge gave $18,237 from a recent bequest to the NFB of Colorado. Carla McQuillan announced that the Oregon affiliate has given $23,355 during the past year. Peggy Elliott next explained that the Blackhawk County Chapter of the NFB of Iowa received a bequest, which it immediately presented to the state affiliate for division between it and the national organization; $24,106.84 is the amount that has come to the National Center. Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, announced that throughout this past year the affiliate has contributed $138,623 from bequests that it has received. Kris Cox, the newly elected President of the NFB of Utah, proudly announced that from a bequest the affiliate was contributing $508,995.48 to the work of the national organization. Finally President Maurer announced that the Baltimore Chapter has contributed about $9,000 to the NFB from its most recent art auction. It was also instrumental in acquiring a $10,000 gift from the United Parcel Service Corporation. The UPS Foundation has contributed $50,000 to support NEWSLINE®, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, also associated with UPS, has contributed $50,000 to fund educational programs for parents and educators of blind children.
Steve Benson, Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee, came forward to present this year's award to David Ticchi, First Vice President of the NFB of Massachusetts and President of the Cambridge Chapter. The text of that presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
Dr. Jernigan announced to the Board that someone at the Winn-Dixie supermarket nearest the convention hotel had called hotel management and warned them not to send over any more blind people. Dr. Jernigan commented that some response was required, and President Maurer appointed a committee composed of Charlie Brown and Peggy Elliott, both of whom are attorneys, to contact the store manager and resolve the situation and educate store staff about the law.
Peggy Elliott then introduced the members of the 1998 scholarship class to the audience. A complete report of this year's scholarship program appears elsewhere in this issue.
Brian Buhrow, Chairman of the NFB's Research and Development Committee, announced that real audio versions of a number of NFB speeches will soon be available on the Internet. Consult the notice in the "Convention Miniatures" column in this issue for the details.
Dr. Jernigan then presented a Distinguished Service award to Michael Marucci, who has been translating and recording NFB materials in Spanish. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
Brief reports were made by those who chair the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan, Shares Unlimited in NFB (SUN), Planned Giving, tenBroek Fund, and Associates Committees. President Maurer then read the top ten in number and in contributions in the 1998 Associates contest. Those recruited to become Members-at-large (Associates) not only make contributions to the NFB but also become full-fledged members of the organization. The top ten recruiters this year by number of Associates and by dollar amount are as follows:
Top Ten in Number
of Associates Recruited
10. Jim Omvig (Arizona), 53
9. Gary Thompson (Missouri), 57
8. John Stroot (Indiana), 63
7. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), 73
6. Carlos Servan (New Mexico), 76
5. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 100
4. Laura Biro (Michigan), 112
3. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 247
2. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 271
1. Michael Taylor (Utah), 333
Top Ten in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Verla Kirsh (Iowa), $1,608
9. Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), $1,672
8. Laura Biro (Michigan), $1,766
7. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $2,125
6. Marc Maurer (Maryland), $2,197
5. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $2,599
4. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), $2,745
3. Michael Taylor (Utah), $3,335
2. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $5,276
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $14,921
After the Board voted to conduct an Associates contest during the coming year, President Maurer adjourned the meeting.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: In this view of the convention hall many state flags are visible, and the attendance banner can be seen mounted on the Texas stanchion. The ballroom is filled with seated people. CAPTION: The convention ballroom as viewed from the center aisle.]
The crowd began to gather early on Tuesday morning as Federationists prepared for the opening of the first general session of the fifty-eighth convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Following the opening door prizes and the invocation, President Maurer read a welcoming letter from Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Tommy Craig, NFB of Texas President, then welcomed the convention. This is part of what he said:
Welcome to Texas. . . . As I said yesterday, we were real concerned to see that you had a warm welcome here, so we've done our best and got it as warm as we could. But if it's not warm enough for you, let us know, and we'll try to do better.
I wanted to tell you some facts about Texas. I told you a few of them yesterday. There are probably as many facts about Texas as there are Texans. Being so humble and all, we want to share them with you. First of all, the state capitol building in Texas is the largest state capitol building in the U.S., and it's actually taller than the U.S. capitol building. The San Jacinto Monument, which stands outside of Houston, is 570 feet tall, twenty feet taller than the Washington Monument. Texas has 254 counties, more than any other state, and forty-one of those counties are larger than the state of Rhode Island. Three of the ten largest cities in the U.S. are in Texas: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
Texas produces more oil, natural gas, beef, sheep, goats, wool, cotton, rice, and watermelons than any other state. There are eighteen million people in Texas, sixteen million head of cattle, two point five million deer, and two hundred thousand alligators. The land area of Texas is larger than New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois combined. Texas is over 800 miles from north to south and from east to west. The DFW Airport, where we now are, is larger than New York's Manhattan Island. El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than to Port Arthur, Texas, and Port Arthur is closer to Jacksonville, Florida, than it is to El Paso. There you have a few tidbits about Texas. Once again, welcome to Texas.
President Maurer briefly reviewed the election information in preparation for the election on Wednesday. Then Richard Edlund, a Member of the Board, asked for the floor to make the following announcement:
Thank you, Mr. President. I do not choose to seek re-election this year. It seems to me that I've been at it for about thirty years. I think you and I both attended our first National Convention in 1969, and I got started a lot later in life than you did. Fourteen years as national Treasurer and six years on the Board with a little time off for the state legislaturethis has probably been one of the greatest experiences of my life, being connected with you out there and all over this nation.
People ask me why did you drop out of the legislature? I usually tell them that some of the arguments started to make sense, and I figured that was the time to leave. That is not why I am dropping out now. I'm still going to be here, and I love you all.
After a number of convention announcements by Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer introduced an NFB song, which was played for the convention. The selection was one of a number on a cassette recording produced by a group of Federationists calling themselves the Cane Raisers. As Dr. Maurer commented, songs as tragic and angry as this one have to be leavened with humor in order to be tolerable. Dr. Jernigan pointed out that anyone who doubts the importance of the National Federation of the Blind has only to take note of the truth expressed in this song to understand how much still has to be done to give blind people a fair chance.
The Technology Song
words by Debbie Brown
sung by Lloyd Rasmussen to the tune of "The Marvelous Toy"
by Tom Paxton
1. When I wrote my rehab plan,
My Counselor promised me
The hottest screen-access program
Of the twentieth century.
I waited for six months
Then gave my counselor a call,
He said, "our budget's frozen;
You must wait until next fall."
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
2. When my equipment finally came,
My counselor explained
That I couldn't get my hands on it Till I'd been thoroughly trained.
I said "Let's start tomorrow,"
But my counselor told me,
"We have a six-month waiting list
At our facility."
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
3. I said I'd get trained on my own,
But rehab made a fuss.
They said, "You won't get funding
Unless you're trained by us."
Now my training's finally done,
And I've come home to wait.
If I ever get a job,
My skills will be out of date.
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
4. Today I had an interview,
But I didn't get to go.
I called for para-transit,
But my vehicle didn't show.
The finest new technology
Won't help us, it's quite plain,
Without good blindness training
And a thirty-dollar cane.
Refrain: It went zip when it moved
And pop when it stopped
And whir when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it,
And I guess I never will.
I've never done a thing in life,
And I guess I never will.
The remainder of the morning session was devoted to the roll call of states. During this the official delegate from each affiliate comes to the microphone to give several pieces of information. Sometimes interesting little facts are also announced. For example, Richard Bennett announced that the Delaware legislature had just appropriated funds for NEWSLINE®, and Priscilla Ferris announced that her affiliate's work with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind has now been successful in bringing NEWSLINE® to the Bay State this coming fall. Allen Harris told the cheering audience that funding for four local service centers to begin service later this year has been made available in Michigan. Maryland and Minnesota announced that Jobline® is up and running in their states, and New Jersey and New Mexico are about to sign the final contracts to make it available across their states. Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas boasted that their state agency directors were on the convention floor. Minnesota's was also present all week long.
Wayne Davis told the cheering audience that the state agency for the blind in Florida had just notified the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) that it had decided to drop its affiliation with the agency. Florida had been the only state agency left on the NAC rolls. Now that agencies serving the blind in Florida are no longer required to maintain NAC accreditation in order to get state contracts, it will be interesting to see how many of NAC's remaining fifty-two members will decide to desert the ship. Eleven are in Florida. Their reason to continue paying NAC membership dues is clearly gone. How many others will now see the light?
Following the lunch recess, the afternoon session began with Dr. Maurer's presidential report. He reviewed the activities of the previous year and looked forward to the year ahead. The full text of this exciting report appears elsewhere in this issue.
When the standing ovation that greeted President Maurer's report had subsided, he quietly announced that several people had come to him with a request that the organization establish the Kenneth Jernigan Fund, interest for which would be used to help fund our scholarship program and convention scholarships for deserving people. He admitted that he had been hesitant at first to go forward with the idea, but the pressure had continued, so the fund had been established with an anonymous gift of $5,000. He then appointed a committee to supervise the project.
With that announcement the afternoon schedule dissolved in a touching and heartfelt outpouring of loving tributes to Dr. Jernigan and his role in changing the lives of blind people. Individuals and affiliates lined up to make gifts and pledges of up to $10,000. This is what Lloyd Jernigan, Dr. Jernigan's brother, said:
Good afternoon, Federationists. Back during the twenties and thirties, when Kenneth Jernigan was a child, there was very little hope for a blind child to become an independent, self-supporting person. Kenneth Jernigan has spent his entire adult life trying to change those conditions. There are still many obstacles to be removed. Several of us have discussed setting up a Kenneth Jernigan fund to be used for scholarships or other things, for example, financial aid to someone who does not have the financial means to attend a convention such as this. The fund will be used to help educate and assist blind persons. My wife Mary and I would like to start the donation this afternoon with a check for $1,000, and here is the check. [applause] Thank you.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Lloyd Jernigan stands at the podium holding a check over his head. CAPTION: Lloyd Jernigan]
There is no way to convey the raw emotion and the sincere love expressed by person after person at the microphones that afternoon. Others simply made their quiet way to the table at the back of the room to make contributions, large and small.
Eventually Dr. Jernigan came to the podium and said:
I was warned and admonished to keep out of this, to say nothing about it, and I kept my counsel until the comments were made. I have never been insulated from the Convention, and I don't intend to start now.
I have only a very few things to say. One of them is to say that anybody who didn't have a heart of stone would be touched and appreciative of what has been said. I am. The second one is: don't count me out; I'm not gone yet! [tumultuous laughter and applause]
I hope to be around for a long time to come, and, as long as I am around, I intend to have a hand in running this outfit. So keep it in mind. This fund looks as if it is going to grow. I'd add my voice to that of Dr. Maurer: don't give any money to this fund that you would have given otherwise because that would be restricting money that we don't want restricted. However, when this fund is developed along with everything else in this outfit, since I am finance chairman, I'm going to have something to say about how it is spent. I thank all of you for what you have said. I think we understand each other. God bless you.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Jernigan stands at the podium smiling broadly. CAPTION: "Don't count me out yet."]
With that Dr. Jernigan intended to bring the public outpouring to a halt in order to go forward with the afternoon's agenda. But it was not to be. The stream of people kept flowing to the microphones on the convention floor, and no one wanted it to stop. By the time the contributions and pledges made during the week were added up, the total was $130,000 and still climbing.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson]
When the afternoon's agenda resumed, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of the Nineteenth Congressional District addressed the convention briefly. She talked about her recognition of our need for reliable, affordable public transportation and pledged to work toward this goal. She also committed to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 612, the bill to re-establish linkage between the monthly stipends received by blind SSDI recipients and those received by retirees under seventy.
The Hon. Richard Conway Casey, District Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, then came to the platform to speak. His title was "A Jurist Who Happens to be Blind." He encouraged his audience always to dare to do more and to help others along on their way. He illustrated his points by reviewing his own experience during recent years, after he became blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Geoff Hilton-Barber]
Geoff Hilton-Barber, mariner and Director of the National Society for the Blind in the Republic of South Africa, was the next speaker. His title was "Charting the Course, Setting the Sails, Completing the Voyage: The Blind Sailor Travels from Africa to Australia Solo." In the time allotted to him he tried to give the audience a real sense of his voyage, not merely the exciting or frightening events, but the peace and beauty as well. Hilton-Barber is soft-spoken, sensible, a gentle and quiet man. It was clear from his story that fulfilling this dream has been costly. He was parted from his loving wife and children, including a four-year-old daughter, for many weeks, and he has borne much of the expense himself. But he believed that it was important to demonstrate that a blind sailor could organize and make this voyage.
The closing agenda item for the day was titled "The Blind Businessman Builds a Visual/Audio Systems Business." It was presented by Greg Lukens, Founder and Vice President of Washington Professional Systems, Inc. He described the way he sold one successful business and began another in which he and fifty-two other people now design and build video and audio systems for big business. He encouraged his listeners to resist becoming the prisoners of other people's lack of imagination. His company did fifty million dollars' worth of business last year and expects to do more this year, but he still finds it necessary to remind others not to let their lack of imagination limit his opportunities.
On this high note the afternoon session recessed, and delegates left to change for the barbecue at Bear Creek. The mercury was still above 100 as the busses began to make their way to the party, but that didn't stop those determined to enjoy Texas fun and good food. Deane Blazie supplied the beer; the band was great; and everyone had a wonderful time.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists enjoy the barbecue at Bear Creek]
Just because hundreds of Federationists were enjoying the barbecue, things didn't stop at the hotel. The annual IEP workshop sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children drew a large and interested crowd. The Music Division's Showcase of Talent was also lots of fun for participants and audience alike.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp President Maurer gaveled the Wednesday morning general session to order. The first agenda item was the annual election. The positions of the five constitutional officers and six at-large board members were up for election this year. The six members in hold-over positions were Don Capps (South Carolina), Wayne Davis (Florida), Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts), Bruce Gardner (Arizona), Betty Niceley (Kentucky), and Joanne Wilson (Louisiana). Marc Maurer (Maryland), President; Joyce Scanlan (Minnesota), First Vice President; Peggy Elliott (Iowa), Second Vice President; Allen Harris (Michigan), Treasurer; Ramona Walhof (Idaho), Secretary; and Board Members Steve Benson (Illinois), Charlie Brown (Virginia), Sam Gleese (Mississippi), Diane McGeorge (Colorado), and Gary Wunder (Missouri) were all nominated and re-elected by acclamation.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carla McQuillan]
Because Dick Edlund was not running for election this year, the Nominating Committee placed in nomination the name of Carla Mcquillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, for election to the Board. She was elected with great enthusiasm. This is what she said immediately following the vote:
Mr. President, Dr. Jernigan, fellow Federationists, in 1988 I applied for a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. I had a four-year-old daughter and a husband in graduate school, and I was flat broke. I remember the telephone call from President Benson. After a series of very uncomfortable questions about blindness, he got to one I thought I could answer, and without hesitation or reservation, when he asked me, "Do you consider yourself blind?" I said, "No sir. I do not." I went to the convention in Carbondale, Illinois. My pockets were empty, my hands were empty, and my soul was empty. Two days later I walked away as president of the student chapter, a white cane in my hand, and a thousand dollars in my pocket.
Shortly after that convention I addressed a student luncheon in St. Louis. Rami Rabby was in the audience, and I said my goal is that ten years from today people in this organization will look back and say, "I'm glad that we gave that scholarship to Carla McQuillan." Here we are ten years later, and I had no idea that the affirmation would be so resounding, but I will take it.
I consider what I've learned from the members of the National Board to be beyond anything that I could give back. It is such an honor to be counted among them, and with your help although I'm sure many will leave this convention with empty pocketslet us work to see that no one walks away with empty hands or empty souls. Thank you so much. [applause]
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Two photographs appear here. In the first Carl Augusto presents the award to Dr. Jernigan. Mr. Augusto holds it between them, and Dr. Jernigan examines it. The second photograph is a close up of the award with the print text visible on the base. The exact text reads "The AFB International Leadership Award, Kenneth Jernigan, 1998." CAPTION: Carl Augusto presents the AFB International Leadership Award to Kenneth Jernigan. CAPTION: One side of the award has Braille text; the other side has print.]
Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind, then gave a report from the AFB, reviewing its activities and accomplishments during the past year and looking to the future. Mr. Augusto then said:
Much progress has been made in recent years in working together, and much of the credit for that progress belongs to Kenneth Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan's leadership in this country and throughout the world is unparalleled. He has inspired so many blind people to reach for the stars and not to allow barriers to be in the way of a successful life. So many individuals and organizations have reached out to Dr. Jernigan for advice and assistance. In recognition of his lifelong commitment to enabling blind people to be the best they possibly can be, the American Foundation for the Blind has established an award entitled the American Foundation for the Blind International Leadership Award, and I am very, very proud to present this new award, the AFB International Leadership Award, to its first recipient, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
The award is a crystal globe with the continents shown in gold plate. The globe turns on its green marble base. The name of the award is written in print and Braille on the base. In his acceptance Dr. Jernigan commented in closing that the award is a symbol of the deepening respect and collegiality between the AFB and the NFB.
Martin Frost, Member of Congress representing the Twenty-fourth District of Texas, next reviewed the legislative picture in Washington and urged Federationists to continue to come to Capitol Hill to educate Congress about the important issues facing blind people. He assured the crowd that he is a co-sponsor of our linkage bill.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, began his remarks by pointing out that this was the first time in twenty-seven years that he had spent the Fourth of July at home. Next year, when our convention is once again scheduled during the first week of July, he'll bring his family with him. After reporting briefly on what's new at NLS, Mr. Cylke described in some detail the process by which the NLS is preparing to make the transition to digital production of Talking Books. As always many people had questions to ask following his speech, and as always he was generous with his time in meeting with people to clear up confusion and problems.
The morning concluded with a group of three presentations concerning rehabilitation. Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, spoke about "Bureaucracy and the Individual: The Plan for the Twenty-first Century." His remarks appear elsewhere in this issue. Jamie Hilton, President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, then delivered remarks titled, "Combined Efforts: The Direction of Today, the Strength of Tomorrow." She reviewed all the ways in which the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and the NFB of New Jersey are working together to see that communication is complete and coordinated action on behalf of blind people is as extensive and effective as possible. Hilton said that she has also used this model as president of the NCSAB working with nationwide consumer organizations and with the federal government. She pointed out that, when she started working in this field twenty-five years ago, it would have been inconceivable for the NCSAB and the AFB both to be on the platform together at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Our strength to cope with tomorrow will come from a shared vision today.
The final panelist and last speaker of the morning was Tom Robertson, Associate Commissioner of the New York Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. His title was "Changing Service Delivery, Working with the Consumers, Increasing Opportunity." He said that all the things listed in his title are essential in rehabilitation today. To accomplish them an agency must insure that an agency director is appointed who is committed to improving the quality of service. He also stressed that consumers must play a significant role in establishing directions and determining program and policy for the agency.
Immediately before the recess, President Maurer called Peggy Elliott to the platform to report on the work of the Winn Dixie Committee. She explained that Mr. O'Neal Williams, manager of the Winn-Dixie store that had refused to do business with blind people earlier in the week, was with her on the stage. His head office had instructed him not to speak over the p.a. system, but he had written a letter to convention delegates that was read. The text stated in forceful terms that the Winn-Dixie company recognizes that everyone who shops at its outlets confers patronage on the company. He said that Winn-Dixie welcomed and was grateful for the business we might bring, and he pledged to do all that he could to make blind shoppers feel welcome. With or without an oral statement from a Winn-Dixie representative on the platform, this was a victory for blind people.
The array of Wednesday-afternoon tours sent Federationists off to explore all corners of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, but there was lots to do at the hotel for those uninterested in braving the triple-digit temperatures. There were workshops on Social Security and making tactile materials for blind children. Joe Cutter conducted a drop-in discussion for parents on "Kids and Canes," and Descriptive Video showed several of its new releases. In addition, several committees and divisions met and other groups held receptions. The centerpiece of the evening, as usual, was Monte Carlo Night, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists enjoy Monte Carlo night.]
The Thursday morning general session came to order at 9:00 a.m. sharp, and the first speaker was Cheralyn Braithwaite, a special education teacher at Mueller Park High School in Bountiful, Utah. Her speech was both touching and powerful. She described years of struggling to appear to be sighted, complete with embarrassing mistakes and a few marginal successes. Then she began to accept herself and her very real abilities when she met Federationists and began to live out NFB philosophy. The audience response to this talk was overwhelming.
The next convention item was a panel presentation titled "The Blind in the World." Dr Jernigan moderated the panel and began with a review of the NFB's role in international matters in the blindness field. Ian Bruce, Professor, Doctor of Social Sciences, Commander of Institute Management, and Director General of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, then gave a charming report on the situation of blind people in the United Kingdom. Dr. Euclid Herie, President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and also President of the World Blind Union, reported on his travels across the world during the past year and expressed the hope that blind people everywhere will continue to work together ever more effectively to bring literacy, jobs, and community acceptance for all blind people.
The next speaker was Frank Clegg, Vice President of the Canada and U.S. Central Region for Microsoft. He reiterated Microsoft's eagerness to work with disabled people to improve the quality and quantity of software solutions to the computer problems faced by blind people. Mr. Clegg indicated that he and his company were ready and eager to discuss access issues. He pointed out that accessibility was now on the executive check list of items that Bill Gates checks when software packages come to him for approval. This is a very important matter for developers writing programs within Microsoft. The audience was left with the impression that Microsoft executives are genuinely interested in insuring that Microsoft programs will truly be accessible to disabled people in future.
During a brief exchange after this presentation, the following challenge was given by President Maurer and accepted by Mr. Clegg:
President Maurer: You have said that you want to work with us. I want to know if you are willing to put it on a regular, ongoing basis. I recognize that we won't like all of the decisions you make. And I also recognize that you won't like all of the recommendations we make. We'll get along anyway. I'd like to do it. I want, on a regular, ongoing basis, for us to establish communication so that we can build something we can use. Will you do it?
Mr. Clegg: (after a brief pause for thought) Yes. [cheers and applause]
Dr. Maurer concluded the discussion by saying: "Mr. Clegg, we've always respected Microsoft; we think now we are going to come to like you guys."
William Rayder, Executive Director of the National Braille Press, gave a report on "Braille Books on a Computer Disk: The Multi-Volume Text You Can Carry in a Briefcase." He announced the availability of Port-a-Books®, which can be loaded into the three Blazie notetakers and read anywhere. The Braille will be NBP's standard, high-quality code, and it will be encrypted for additional copyright protection. National Braille Press's policy of selling Braille books at no more than the cost of the print versions will apply to Port-a-Books® as well as hard-copy Braille. Rayder said that NBP plans to expand beyond Blazie products as soon as possible, and it should also soon be possible for buyers to download their purchases from the Internet. The audience's response to the announcement of this new product was enthusiastic. Mr. Rayder closed his remarks by thanking the NFB and particularly the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, for presenting the Golden Keys Award to NBP last year. He said that the plaque hangs in his office and is an eloquent demonstration to would-be contributors that blind people appreciate the work of the National Braille Press.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carolyn Colvin]
The final item on the morning agenda was a report from Carolyn Colvin, Deputy Commissioner for Operations at the Social Security Administration, titled "Social Security Beneficiaries and Work: The Need to Encourage Independent Employment." She reviewed current efforts to minimize the disincentives and increase the opportunities for disabled beneficiaries to return to work. In an exchange with Jim Gashel following her remarks, Ms. Colvin agreed to explore ways of working with the NFB to notify those returning to work of what they must do to prevent overpayments and the subsequent need to return the funds in a lump sum.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman]
The afternoon session began with a convention first. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman spoke to convention delegates from her office in Washington. The Secretary was visible on large screens at the front of the ballroom, and the audio system allowed her to hear and be heard during her remarks. This is what Secretary Herman said:
Thank you for that warm introduction and for allowing me to be a part of your national conference. I must admit that I feel as though I am with you live, in person today. I want to recognize Congresswoman Kay Granger, who I understand is there with you in Dallas; the President of the NFB, Dr. Marc Maurer; and acknowledge your President Emeritus, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, for his longstanding leadership in the blind movement. [beginning applause] Yes, let's give him a round of applause. [enthusiastic applause]
The Department of Labor and the NFB have a long record of working together to expand opportunity and increase employment for people with disabilities. And meeting that goal is a high priority for President Clinton and for me as your Secretary of Labor. That's precisely why the President established and I chair the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
We know our economy today is strong. Jobs are up and unemployment is down. But we also know that people are getting left behind. Three out of four people with severe disabilities are not working. We have to change that. And that is why I am so pleased to announce the awarding of a $3 million grant to the NFB to implement a project that will help us do just that.
As you may know, the Department of Labor has an Internet Web site called America's Job Bank. It is the largest electronic job bank in the country. That's a great service, but it's not available to the blind. Through your leadership that's going to change.
Our $3 million grant to the NFB will be used for the development of America's Jobline®, which makes a personalized job search possible by telephone. You won't need a computer. You won't need to get on the Internet. All you need is a phone. The project reflects three major principles and hallmarks of our Department's one-stop system-building: universal service; customer choice; and strong partnership among public, private, and non-profit sectors.
For the user Jobline® will: 1.) be available twenty-four hours a day to provide all job announcements in high-quality synthetic speech; 2.) let callers search a regularly updated, job-order data base, for example a statewide job bank or America's Job Bank; 3.) allow job seekers to create and store on the system personal job-search profiles.
I am very excited about this project. It will make a real difference. And I want to thank the NFB for helping make that happen. And I know that Jim Vollman, the brain behind many of DOL's technology-based, one-stop advancements, is there with you to walk you through our new project in detail.
Let me also say that I am pleased to announce that as of July 1, 1998, the Department of Labor and the NFB are collaborating on an exciting initiative to promote competitive employment for the blind. This $500,000 effort will go a long way to making sure that blind individuals are trained and job-ready for opportunities in the futureparticularly in the high-tech area. (I want particularly to commend United Parcel Service for their willingness to step up and commit to being the very first large corporate employer to agree to place job-ready blind individuals.) [applause] Thank you, UPS.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to working with all of you and continuing the Department of Labor's strong partnership with the NFB in the months and years to come. Thank you, and may God bless all of you today.
Then the Associate Assistant Secretary of Labor leading the One-Stop and Labor-Market Information Initiatives and Employment and Training Administration, Jim Vollman, spoke to the convention. He described the Jobline® technology that is beginning to be available for the use of job seekers with access to phones rather than computers. He went on to say that with our help they are working to make truly accessible America's Job Bank, the original online version of the Department of Labor's giant database of employment opportunities. He concluded by saying that perhaps the most important lesson he had learned from his work with the NFB was that the most valuable and constructive thing that the Department of Labor can do is not to do things for blind people but to make it possible for us to do them for ourselves.
President Maurer then called on longtime Federationist Richard Davis, Director of Programs for the Blind in the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, to describe briefly the America's Jobline® installation in Minnesota, which was being readied for demonstration during the national One-Stop Conference to be held in late July.
The next agenda item was the one Federationists had been waiting for all week. "The Continuing Saga of the Kernel Books" was the title of Dr. Jernigan's address, and it was, quite simply, magnificent. The text appears elsewhere in this issue. Those who receive the cassette edition of the Braille Monitor will have some idea of the electricity that filled the ballroom as our beloved leader for so many years delivered what people recognized might well be his last speech to the organized blind movement. This was one of a number of times throughout the week in which love for Dr. Jernigan and for one another and pride and joy in what together we have created swirled through the room, strengthening us all for the future.
When Congresswoman Kay Granger, Representative of the Twelfth District of Texas, came to the podium to speak following this presentation, it was clear that she, too, had been moved by what she had heard. Her topic was "Supporting Programs that Enhance Opportunity: A View from Congress." She is a truly articulate and engaging speaker, and her remarks appear elsewhere in this issue.
Ritchie Geisel, President of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, announced that seven members of his staff were attending the NFB convention because, as he pointed out, it is the largest gathering of RFB&D borrowers taking place this year. He described the exciting progress being made by researchers to make the new digital technology available to RFB&D borrowers. He believes that by sometime in 2001 it will be widely available, though as long as patrons still want cassette books, they will also be available. In closing, Mr. Geisel announced that he will be leaving RFB&D in the coming months but said that he and his wife hope to be in Atlanta for next year's convention.
The final agenda item of the afternoon was a panel presentation moderated by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs. He was joined by Dan Shipley, Deputy Director for Retail Tenant Services of the General Services Administration, and Stephen Leavey, Manager for Corporate Personnel Operations of the United States Postal Service. Mr. Gashel began by describing recent efforts by various federal agencies to erode the blind priority of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Mr. Shipley assured the audience of GSA's continuing commitment to implementing and supporting the program, and Mr. Leavey, who was back for the second year, reported on food service operations in the Postal Service and talked about efforts to work with the NFB to improve matters still further. It was clear from their comments and from the questions that followed their presentations that, though there are certainly problems, these two agencies are prepared to continue making good-faith efforts to solve them and protect the Randolph-Sheppard Program.
As often happens, the banquet this year occurred on Thursday evening. A new system was put in place that made getting to the ballroom during the half hour preceding this always memorable event positively pleasant. A Federationist was assigned to every elevator lobby in the East Tower. This person's job was to load the elevators stopping at that floor. A hotel employee operated each elevator by hand. These six people were in radio contact with each other at all times. When an elevator was full, it was taken directly to the ballroom level. The folks in charge were pleasant, and the trip was surprisingly efficient and very quick.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Allen Harris]
There is a science to getting several thousand people to assigned banquet seats in a brief time, and we seem to improve our mastery of it each year. By shortly after 7:00 p.m. most people were in their seats, and Allen Harris, who did a superb job as master of ceremonies this year, was banging the gavel to begin a memorable evening. Of course door prizes, songs, and division drawings were scattered throughout the proceedings. Jim Gashel came to the podium to recognize the United Parcel Service Corporation for its growing partnership in the work of the National Federation of the Blind and the Kaman Corporation, which is also an enthusiastic NFB supporter. Both organizations had a number of guests present at the banquet.
One of the first pieces of business for the evening was consideration of Resolution 98-01, commending the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for honoring Dr. Jernigan. It was adopted enthusiastically with Jamie Hilton, NCSAB President watching.
Dr. Jernigan presented the Newel Perry Award to Rudy Savage, head of Talking Book Publishers, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Denver, Colorado, that produces talking books. Mr. Savage responded briefly to this warm presentation. The full text of this ceremony appears elsewhere in this issue.
Immediately following this presentation came one of the high points of the evening. Ramona Walhof stepped to the microphone to present the Jacobus tenBroek Award for 1998. She began quietly enough, but when she got to the words, "I first met Mary Ellen Jernigan," the ballroom erupted in a standing ovation of spontaneous and heartfelt joy and approval. Mrs. Jernigan was completely surprised, but demonstrated what we have long suspected, that it is impossible to catch her without a collected, articulate, and insightful response on her lips. The complete text of this moving tribute appears elsewhere in this issue.
The other award presentation made during the banquet was recognizing the 1998 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. Sharon Maneki came to the platform to present this award to Dr. James Bickford, Director of Education at the Washington State School for the Blind. The complete text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
"The Search for Anonymity" was the title of this year's banquet address by President Maurer. We have come to expect thoughtfulness, humor, and inspiration from NFB banquet addresses. It is fair to say that this year's speech was vintage Federation fare. It was by turns funny, infuriating, thought-provoking, and energizing. The full text appears elsewhere in this issue.
It's always a delight to participate in the presentation of the twenty-six scholarships awarded during each year's banquet. Hearing the students' accomplishments and their vocational plans one after the other is challenging and inspiring. Each year these students represent the furthest cast we have yet made toward first-class citizenship. Their dreams are the product of all we have worked for and dared to hope. Whenever fatigue threatens to overwhelm us, it is enough to remember the scholarship class and what they are accomplishing. This year Stephanie Thompson was the recipient of the American Action Fund Scholarship in the amount of $10,000. Her remarks, as well as a full report of the 1998 scholarship program, appear elsewhere in this issue.
As the banquet drew to a close, one of the activities that had enlivened the Thursday-afternoon convention session came to a close. The Jernigan Fund Committee had conducted a split-the-pot drawing in which 1,000 tickets were each sold for $5. The drawing took place just at the close of the banquet, and Alan Hale of Maryland was the winner of $2,500. Karen Marx won the grand door prize of $1,000, and as a result her husband Jim, who complains that no hat ever fits him, was the ultimate recipient of the Texas-size hat that went with it and was worn at different times by so many NFB leaders during the course of the eveningsee the lead photograph for the evidence.
However late the banquet runs and however hard Federationists play afterward, the Friday convention session begins promptly at 9:00 a.m.
The entire final day of the convention was devoted to organization business. Dr. Jernigan presented the financial report, and Jim Gashel reported on the past year in Washington. Affiliates and divisions had an opportunity to contribute to both the Jacobus tenBroek Fund and the White Cane fund in the Honor Roll Call of States. The remaining fourteen resolutions were read, considered, and passed by the convention. And a number of drawings took place. Here is the complete list of countries represented by the sixty international guests at this year's convention: Canada, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Final reports were made by the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Committee. Contributions rose to an annualized figure of $383,514, and SUN contributions during the convention reached $9,485. Toward the close of the afternoon session, Dr. Jernigan raised the problem of persistent negative posts from a few people on the NFB's various listservs. He made it clear that he was not referring to honest questions posed in tactless terms but rather repeated insults and criticisms dropped into the discussion in the name of free expression. Dr. Jernigan commented that he had no quarrel with the concept of free speech, but he didn't see why we should have to pay for other people to insult us in the name of the First Amendment. The convention obviously agreed with him because it voted enthusiastically to deny space to such contributors in future.
Following a number of commendations and several suggestions for agenda items at the 1999 convention in Atlanta, Diane McGeorge drew for the final door prizes, and Dr. Maurer brought down the gavel adjourning the 1998 convention. It's always difficult to leave a National Convention. The joy of being together, exchanging ideas and funny stories; the inspiration of learning about what other people dare to do; the excitement of discovering new possibilities for ourselves: these always make good-byes hard to say. It was particularly difficult this year because of the uncertainty of Dr. Jernigan's health. But every moment of the convention served as a reminder of what the blind of the nation have built by working together and what we have already accomplished through the National Federation of the Blind.
As always, the future is uncertain. Challenges await us. Those who would prefer for blind people to remain quietly in the places of dependency they have assigned us will try to stop our march. But we now know some part of what we are capable of accomplishing, and we dare to dream of an even brighter tomorrow. We will carry into that tomorrow all the proud history of our past, all the wisdom and compassion we have been taught, all the love we have received and passed along. Our strength and courage will be sufficient to face whatever comes, for the price of failure is too great. We will keep faith with those who have gone before us, and we will continue to reshape the world for those who come after. Whatever the year ahead brings, we will gather again in our thousands in Atlanta next July to keep the pledge we have made to Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and each other to change what it means to be blind.