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Barbara Pierce and Dr. Jernigan

Barbara Pierce

Oberlin, Ohio

September 11, 1998

Dear Dr. Jernigan,

Like everyone else who loves you, in recent months I have been remembering all the things you have done for me and all the ways in which you have influenced and shaped my life since our first contact, in June of 1974. As I look back, it seems as if you have always called forth more from me than I thought was there to be found. How vividly I recall your telling me when you called to invite me to a leadership seminar over the Labor Day weekend in 1975 that I was not in a position to know what contribution I could make to the organization. If I could come to the seminar, that would be sufficient; we would discover together what I could do to help build the NFB during the months and years ahead.

As I flew home from that seminar, I wrote, "Those who oppose us may try to undercut this man's character, but during this seminar I have taken his measure, and I have never before met anyone with his capacity for love and faith in other people. No one can ever convince me that he is anything other than the finest man I have ever been privileged to know." That was twenty-three years ago, but my assessment has never altered.

In 1988, when you approached me about coming to work with you, I was frightened and uncertain at the prospect of taking on such an important and visible job. But you seemed convinced that I could do it. By that time my experience had taught me to depend on your assessments. As so often before, I walked out in faith and in the trust that you would steady my steps and teach me what I needed to know. You have been gentle, tactful, patient, and unfailingly kind, and you have always served as my teacher and guide.

For twenty-four years you have been only a phone call or letter away. Now I am forced to contemplate a future in which I must apply what you have taught and counseled without the immediate steadying of your wisdom and common sense. I will not pretend that I am eager or even ready to be turned loose, but I can promise you that I will do my best to remember all the lessons you have taught me, and I will do my best to continue your work to make the Braille Monitor the ringing voice of the Federation.

We who love you will continue to nurture and build the organization you have given your life to define and strengthen. The time and thought and love you have poured into shaping me, I promise I will pass on as best I can to those who come after. You believed in me at a time in my life when I hardly dared believe in myself. I promise you now that I will do my best to pass on what you have given me—the love, the commitment, the wisdom, the patient concern, and the dedication. To whatever degree I possess these things, I will offer them to the movement you have built and taught me to cherish.

With love and gratitude,