Pedro Zurita shows Dr. Jernigan a model of the Louis Braille museum.
Dr. Jernigan Will Always
Be With Us
by Pedro Zurita
From the Editor: Pedro Zurita is Secretary General of the World Blind Union.
Although in a sense Dr. Jernigan left us last October 12, from that day on his memory will be perennially cherished by many blind people all over the world.
Personally I had a very special relationship with him since 1986, when he and I became particularly involved in the leadership of the World Blind Union. After the very first officers' meeting that he attended in the fall of 1987, he wrote a letter evaluating my performance very highly. In February, 1988, I visited the NFB's national headquarters in Baltimore, where I had the honor of having dinner with him in his home and enjoying some of the dishes he himself prepared.
Sometime later he wrote an article on the Spanish National Organization of the Blind (ONCE) in the Braille Monitor, in which he used some of the most flattering adjectives that have ever been associated with my name. That article proved to be a challenge to my knowledge of the English language, since I had to ask what some of those expressions meant!
In the years he presided over the WBU's North America/Caribbean Region, he interacted with U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean delegates. He himself said that such a setup served to foster cooperation among the region's organizations that would never have existed otherwise. I believe that Dr. Jernigan's experience as a WBU leader expanded his view of the world. There are some problems that you have in the United States that are universal, but others are different in both degree and nature in comparison with other areas.
In any case, Dr. Jernigan will leave an indelible mark on many of us. Through his writings he conveyed the idea that being blind is more a characteristic than a handicap. He helped many people gain self-confidence in no trivial manner. That meant they tried to do things in life that without his encouragement they would have ruled out altogether.
People in Africa who read the Braille Monitor would often ask me if I knew Dr. Jernigan. I interpreted those queries to mean that, not only had they read his articles, but the ideas had done them a great service. From my modest position as editor of the World Blind, I am proud to say that I was able to publish two of Dr. Jernigan's outstanding articles, one on "The Nature of Independence" and the other titled "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic?" I personally saw to the Spanish version and know for a fact that the ideas contained in the paper aroused a great deal of interest all over the world.
In the last few days I have received any number of letters in which people from here and there refer to the enormous impact that Dr. Jernigan's philosophy had on their lives. We are deeply afflicted by his parting but consoled by the thought that the world is a better place for his having lived in it.