Larry Campbell speaks at the memorial service.
Lawrence F. Campbell
From the Editor: Larry Campbell is Vice President of the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI). He works from the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The following were his remarks at the memorial service:
It is an honor to have the opportunity to say a few words today on behalf of the thousands of educators of blind children throughout the world who are members of ICEVI. As word of Dr. Jernigan's death spread throughout the world, my telephone rang off the hook, and my e-mail basket was fullall asking the same question: what can we do to express our feelings about this great leader who so influenced thinking, not only here in the U.S. but in some of the remotest regions of the world, where equality for blind people is, in many cases, still a dream?
As I began to think about what I might say this afternoon, many fond memories of my nearly twenty years of association with Dr. Jernigan and the NFB ran through my mind. Let me share with you one of my fondest memories. In 1997 ICEVI convened its tenth World Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As Chairperson of the Program Committee one of my most important tasks was to identify a keynote speaker who would deliver a thought-provoking address that would set the tone for this meeting, whose theme concerned establishing partnerships among parents, consumers, and educators. Dr. Jernigan immediately came to mind, and he graciously accepted my invitation.
Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan arrived in Sao Paulo a couple of days before the conference was to open, and after settling them into their hotel and giving them a very quick orientation to points of interest in the area, which included a local crafts market, I returned to the many last-minute details associated with organizing such a World Conference.
The conference was to open with Dr. Jernigan's keynote address at the State Palace on Sunday evening. Late that afternoon I stopped by the hotel to find that indeed Dr. Jernigan had fully explored the local crafts market and had purchased some onyx cordial glasses of which he was very fond. Some of you here may have used those glasses, and I want to assure you that any and all of us who returned to Brazil after that meeting were under standing orders to scour that craft market to find more of them. After all, the NFB is a large organization, and a dozen onyx cordial glasses don't go far at an NFB function.
That afternoon Dr. Jernigan inquired as to how we would get to the State Palace. Earlier that same day Victor Siaulys, the parent of a blind child and the chairperson of the Host Committee, had suggested to me that we use his helicopter to travel to the State Palace. Without even checking with Dr. Jernigan, I graciously declined, knowing how he felt about being airborne.
When I told Dr. Jernigan that a car would pick us up and that I had declined the use of Victor's helicopter, he paused for a moment and said: "Well, Larry, you know I have never been in a helicopter before, and I really do like to try everything at least once." As you can imagine, this took me by surprise, but then again Dr. Jernigan was always full of surprises. A quick call to the pilot Sergio, and a few minutes later Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan and I were at the local heliport, boarding a 6-passenger Bell helicopter and on our way to the State Palace. While Mrs. Jernigan provided a running commentary, Dr. Jernigan, with his unquenchable curiosity, fired one question after another at the pilot Sergio, who later confided in me that he was quite certain that with a few more flights Dr. Jernigan would be asking to take the controls. I think it must have been the first time in his life that he had been airborne and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In fact, after landing he still wanted to learn as much as he couldhow helicopters were constructed and how they operated. For a while I thought the conference might open without our keynote speaker.
Upon arrival in the auditorium of the State Palace, Dr. Jernigan asked me to orient him to the room and then to walk him through the route from his seat in the front row to the podium. Two passes through these paces and he was ready to do it alone.
It will not surprise anyone here to learn that his keynote address was magnificent and extremely well received by the 1,500 delegates and local dignitaries on hand that evening. However, beyond the powerful words of his keynote address there was something else at work in the auditorium of the State Palace that evening. It is reflected in the following editorial which appeared several months later in the Asia Appraiser, the regional magazine of ICEVI/Asia. I think it sums up what Dr. Jernigan has represented to so many educators throughout the world. Let me close my remarks with the words of that editorial.
"When Dr. Kenneth Jernigan of the National Federation of the Blind of the United States of America walked independently to the dais of the State Palace in Sao Paulo to deliver the keynote address of the tenth World Conference of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, there was thunderous applause. He was independent, elegant, and reassured the conference that visually impaired persons can come out of the social conditioning that they are inferior.
"A delegate in the back row shouted with joy, `That is beautiful, Dr. Jernigan; why don't others emulate you?' Orientation and mobility are vital aspects of the independent living of any visually impaired person. The independent movement of Dr. Jernigan made thousands of people assembled at the Palace proud.
"The striking statement `Leading by Example' made by Dr. Jernigan during his keynote address was relevant to what he had demonstrated. His powerful address set the trend for an excellent conference. After delivering the address, no one was needed to bring him back to his seat. He did it by himself. He, through his action, had demonstrated that he leads others by example. He also indicated how parents, teachers, administrators, and other professionals in the field should lead by example in whatever work they do.
"We can make our visually impaired children outstanding if they are led by example. Let us make them excellent in education, mobility, rehabilitation, and integration. In doing so, let us emulate Dr. Jernigan and his powerful statement, `Leading by Example'"!