An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Anaheim, California, July 4, 1996
Maturity is the exercise of intelligence in the fourth dimensiontime. As Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was then serving as President of the National Federation of the Blind, said in 1986: "To the extent one ranges backward in time to understand the causes of present conditions, and to the extent one ranges forward to anticipate future consequences of present acts, one is mature. Maturity is intelligence in depth." So Dr. Jernigan said in 1986.
Not only do individuals need maturity, but civilizations, organizations, and cultures need it as well. Whether a society can reach maturity depends on the maturity of the people within it and its capacity to internalize their maturity. If a society is to mature, it must balance two competing interests. It must welcome diversity and experimentation and at the same time maintain stability and order. Experimentation and diversification diminish stability, but they are essential for growth. However, if stability is lost, there will be no structure in which to experiment. Both the instability of experimentation and the stability of order are required.
Maturity for a society or an individual cannot be achieved without reaching new understandings and perspective. This requires effort and a tolerance for painsometimes financial, sometimes emotional, and sometimes physical. Individuals and societies that are unwilling to expend effort or tolerate pain to achieve a desirable goal in the future cannot attain maturity.
The maturity of the individual and the maturity of the society are related. One cannot develop without encouraging the other. One cannot diminish without inhibiting the other. To build a strong society it is essential to enhance the maturity of its members, to incorporate that maturity into the group as a whole, to tolerate pain in the interest of achieving desirable goals, to welcome diversity, and to maintain order.
In the minds of certain people today the blind in some respects are regarded as children. We resemble children, they would have us believe, because we lack the two qualities that give significance to individuals or groups the capacity to make substantial contributions and the capacity to cause serious trouble. But the blind and children, in this formulation, are not the same. The children will grow up. The blind will not. The children may commit indiscretions and be forgiven. The blind will be inactive with no indiscretions to forgive. Maturity may come to the one, but not to the other. Growth and development are to be expected with children, but the blind (though we will grow physically) will not achieve the development or perspective required for decision makingwe will not gain maturity. Rather we will remain, according to this view, as children in need of custody and care.
Those who believe that the blind should be viewed as children have tacitly accepted the misguided notion that for us there can be no future because for us there has been no past. Since they are part of the society in which we live, their maturity affects our maturityour growth, our developmentour capacity to exercise intelligence in time. But there is another side to that coin. Since we are part of the society in which they live, our maturity affects their maturitytheir growth, their developmenttheir capacity to exercise intelligence in time. If we are to gain maturity and if we are to enhance the maturity of our society, we must demonstrate that this conception of blindness is wrong. We who are blind have the understanding, the energy, and the will to direct our own lives, to make our contributions, and (if need be) to meet confrontation head on; and we will permit no one else to do it for us. Our past, though sometimes filled with misunderstanding and misery, is the precursor of today. Our future is what we will make it. We will act, recognizing that the consequences will be determined by our capacity to comprehend, our judgment, our courage, and our faith in each other. But above all we will act!
In 1940 the brilliant blind scholar and professor, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, and a small group of other like-minded blind people brought into being in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the National Federation of the Blind. With that one act the future of the blind was altered for all time. As we came to organize, conditions for blind people were bleak. Employment for the blind was virtually unknown. Education occurred at schools for the blind, but the administrators of those institutions rarely expected blind students to continue their instruction at the university level. Libraries for the blind existed, but the collection of books available for distribution was not large. The adult rehabilitation program operated jointly by federal and state governments had been created, but the blind were not part of it because it was felt that they could not benefit from rehabilitation. As rehabilitation officials said, we were not "feasible." The Social Security Act had been adopted in 1935, providing some measure of support to the blind; and the Randolph-Sheppard Act to create vending opportunities for the blind had been adopted in 1936, but the small number of vending stands which had been established were tiny operations selling (for the most part) tobacco products, newspapers, and candy. In certain places sheltered workshops for the blind had been in existence for decades (some for as long as a century), but these offered only repetitive hand assembly work at pitifully low wages in miserable working conditions.
A top-quality education; a career in government service or the professions; employment in industry or the private sector; a standard of living sufficient to permit dating, marriage, the establishment of a family, and the purchase of a home; training and support to begin a private business; and participation in politicsnone of this was for the blind. However, Dr. tenBroek and his small band of colleagues thought otherwise. He and the others with him believed that conditions for the blind would never change unless the blind themselves controlled the events of their own destiny. He believed that blindness need not be the determining factor of our future. He believed that unemployment and lack of opportunity could be changed and that the future for the blind could be differentbut only if we made it happen. He set the Federation on the road we have followed ever since. He gave us a standard to follow and a method for achieving the goal. He told us that it would not be easythat it would require effort and a tolerance for pain. But he promised that the effort and the pain would bring results. Look about you! We the blind have gathered here tonight in our thousands. Dr. tenBroek said that we could make a difference, and if he were with us tonight, he would be pleased with what the National Federation of the Blind has becomethe strongest, most positive, most vital force in the affairs of the blind today.
In the fall of 1995 members of the National Federation of the Blind hosted a black-tie dinner at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore to support and promote one of the most innovative developments in our history, NEWSLINE for the Blind. As Federation members know, this is the completely automated digital network that brings daily newspapers to the blind by touch-tone telephone. National newspapers such as USA Today, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune can be read by phone anytime during the day or night. This development has far-reaching implications. The absence of knowledge signifies the absence of the possibility for choice. The presence of knowledge indicates the exact oppositethe awareness of opportunity, the possibility for choice, and the freedom to act.
We invited the press to be present at our black-tie dinner; we described the vital work of the National Federation of the Blind; we demonstrated NEWSLINE for the Blind; and we discussed the impact that broad-ranging information services would have on the lives of blind people. But the story that appeared in the newspaper the next day did not contain the drama of the work of the Federation or the potential alteration in the future of the blind. Instead, to be perfectly frank, the reporter didn't get it. He reiterated the old, familiar theme, the stereotypethe blind can become good musicians. The importance of the NEWSLINE event was not, he seemed to say, the development of opportunity for the blind or enhanced access to information. It was music. The item in the newspaper began with the headline, "Boy upstages NEWSLINE."
The text reads:
The star of NEWSLINE Night at the National Federation of the Blind was, of course, NEWSLINE, a system that converts newspapers into synthetic voice and delivers it through telephone lines to blind people. it's an exciting new on-ramp to the information highway, allowing the nation's blind to "read" newspapers first thing in the morning, the way the rest of us do.
During the black-tie dinner at the NFB headquarters in South Baltimore [the reporter writes], guests heard a demonstration; a synthesized voice read excerpts of stories fresh from USA Today, one of the first newspapers to agree to participate in the system.
As impressive as NEWSLINE was [the article continues], a kid in dark glasses and tails almost stole the show.
Jermaine Gardner, a twelve-year-old boy, was called to the Yamaha grand in the front of the dining room, then proceeded to dazzle us with performances of classical selections, from Mendelssohn to Beethoven, scherzo to sonata.
I'm telling you, he was fabulous [says the reporter]. He was accompanied to the dinner by his "managers," James and Jacqui Gardner. They should be right proud. Jermaine, who was born blind, has been playing classical music since he was 2, performing since he was 4. By the way [says the article], his business card notes that Jermaine is available for weddings, socials, and "children's Barney parties."
This is what the newspaper said, and it is not that the details are incorrect but that the perception, the tone, and the depth of understanding are wrong. Is it really impressive that a blind boy of twelve can play the piano, even that he can play it extremely well, even that he can play it like a genius? Maybebut the musical performance fades into relative insignificance compared to the revolutionary impact which NEWSLINE will make on the lives of thousands and tens of thousands of blind people throughout the nation, and ultimately the world. NEWSLINE was the star, of course, and the reporter simply missed it and flubbed his opportunity. And what was it that the reporter thought was "fabulous"? A blind kid playing the piano.
Did the reporter believe that blind people are unable to play the piano? Is that why he found the performance so enthralling? Or is it that he thought there was nothing else in the evening worth reportingnothing else that would strike a chord with his readers? Suppose, he thought, NEWSLINE would change the world for the blindwhat difference could it possibly make in the broader society? What difference could it make to the people who really matter? Unstated but always present is the silent assertion that the future of blind people is not worth the trouble to report. Just give us the piano playerthat's where blind people excel. It never occurred to the reporter that blind people have already made contributions to society (contributions he not only wants but needs) and that we will continue to do so. Apparently it never occurred to him that we, who are part of the society in which he lives, will necessarily help shape his future. He thought of NEWSLINEŝ as an impressive new toy with which the blind could amuse themselves, but the blind (according to his understanding) have nothing to giveexcept a little music. He thought of us as children. In fact, he concludes his newspaper item by telling us that the blind musician is available for socials and children's Barney parties. It matters very little how we spend our timeunless, of course, we can be entertaining unless we can play the piano.
This newspaper account completely misses the point. There are some of us who do play the pianoplay it well and are proud of our ability. However, this is not what defines us as human beings. NEWSLINE for the Blind, on the other hand, is opening to the blind entirely new vistas of knowledge, of thought, and of experience. Our capacity to participate in the activities of our day is increased by NEWSLINE. No one can predict how important this is because the impact that it will have has not yet been realized. But we are certain that it will add to our capacity to contribute to our society. It will give us the knowledge to shape a better future not only for ourselves but also for the very reporter who misunderstands us. Our past, even our recent past, though sometimes filled with misunderstanding, is the precursor of today's conditions. We will act, recognizing that the consequences, even though not always wholly anticipated, will be determined by our capacity to comprehend, our judgment, our courage, and our faith in each other. But above all it is certain that we will act.
We should not be surprised by newspaper reporters who lack the perception and experience to understand the importance and drama of our struggle to move from second-class status to full equality in society. But we should expect something better from programs for the blind something more knowledgeable, more in tune with reality. The purpose of governmental and private agencies for the blind is, after all, to help blind users of their services achieve their highest potential.
It is gratifying that an increasing number of the agencies for the blind are working ever more closely with us with positive results. However, there are, in a few instances, still some so-called professionals in agencies for the blind who regard the organized blind movement not as a welcome partner but as an interfering adversary. In such agencies it is not astonishing that services for the blind are minimal AND poor.
An article which appeared in the Sunday, April 21, 1996, edition of the Hartford Courant, one of the most widely-distributed newspapers in the state of Connecticut, describes with pride the services of the Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB), the state-run rehabilitation agency. Keep in mind that we are not talking about ancient history. The article was written less than three months ago.
It begins with the headline, "Jobs for the Blind," and contains photographs of three workers who have been employed at the workshop for from nine to fifteen years. The theme of the article is contained in the subtitle, which reads: "At BESB Industries, visually impaired workers gain self-esteem. " The impression conveyed by these statements is that" blind employees are offered long-term employment, job security, a high level of self-esteem, recognition of their innate normality and capacity, and a level of pay sufficient to provide a livelihood. This impression is reinforced by the portions of the article that describe manufacturing in the workshop. The business at BESB is not trivial. The article puts it this way:
Each month the employees, some using special sewing machines, sew up to 20,000 pairs of sweat pants for the Army, 1,200 life vests for the Navy, and 5,000 "kit bags" for the Air Force, bags used as soft-sided luggage.
In March, the company was awarded a $13 million government contract to sew up to 800,000 T-shirts a year for the Army.
This is what the newspaper says, and with all of these thousands of items being produced for all of these millions of federal dollars, what do the blind get? The newspaper tells us. Here are excerpts from the article:
Inside a concrete and brick building the Board of Education and Services for the Blind, or BESB Industries, offers about 115 peoplethe majority of whom are completely blindthe chance to hold a job and earn a salary. For many of the workers the program has provided something more: a chance to feel useful again.
[The newspaper continues,] "This job has given me the opportunity to do the things I didn't think I would ever be able to do," [said one of the sewing machine operators.]
"It's a challenge," he continued, "and it's good for people to know blind people can be productive members in society."
The 25,000-square-foot building housing BESB [the article continues] is filled with people who strongly believe that. And they show up for work each daysome making as little as $1.50 an hourto prove it to themselves, and sometimes to others.
I interrupt to observe that they are also coming to the workshop to produce 800,000 T-shirts a year so that the agency can get thirteen million federal dollars, but back to THE article.
Overall, the average pay rate [says the article] is $3.50 an hour, less than the minimum wage, now at $4.25 an hour.
But for some of the employees at the West Hartford workshop, pay is not an issue.
Howie Schwartz, 59, of Southington [the article continues], who has worked there for the past nine years, said that his job has given him so much, he would work for free.
"Don't tell them, but I'd come here for nothing, because this place has given me back some of my self-respect. What I do counts."
Schwartz [the article continues] lost his sight in 1985. When he had his sight, he was in charge of more than eighty employees in a manufacturing plant.
Let me interrupt the article to emphasize what I just read to you. This man was in charge of more than eighty employees in a manufacturing plant, and now he is working for substandard wagesand in an environment that has so conditioned him that he would feel grateful to have the job even if it gave him no pay at all. Yet some people have the nerve to tell us that we are being negative when we point out the abuses of this kind of operation. He supervised eighty employees! Eighty employeesand now he works for a pittance and has been conditioned to think so little of himself that he is grateful. But back to the article:
Schwartz said he did not work for a year after losing his vision. "You don't know what bored is until You've sat at home for a year."
"Now I'm using my past experiences and past contacts, and I know I'm making a contribution," said Schwartz, who worked for five years sewing various products before becoming responsible for purchasing. "I'm useful."
These are statements from the Hartford Courant. They promise jobs and self-esteem for the blind. But the promise is false, and the dream is a nightmare. One of the essential characteristics of a job is that the person doing the work gets paidand at a salary commensurate with ability and performance. There is nothing wrong with volunteering time and effort. Most of the work of the National Federation of the Blind is done through volunteers. However, we know when we are volunteering. We don't pretend that it is something else. How different it is at the agency for the blind in Connecticut. At Services for the Blind the choices are apparently simple. Blind people who want to work can sit at home and be bored or produce T-shirts in the workshop at an average of $3.50 an hour. But they do get self-esteem. Let me ask you this, shall we offer to trade? Will the supervisors at the workshop take the subminimum wages and the self-esteem and let us have their salaries? Are they willing to work for $3.50 an hour? That comes to less than $7,500 a year.
But there is more in the article. Consider the description of services provided to a woman who has been receiving the benefit of this rehabilitation program for over three decades. She became blind in her twenties, and she was understandably afraid. What did the agency do to help? This is how the newspaper tells it.
[Kathy] Lunge, 57, of Wethersfield, was 23, with a newborn baby, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that eventually took her vision.
After she recovered from treatment for the brain tumor, she was afraid to leave home.
"It was hard to cope. I wouldn't leave the house," [the blind mother said.]
Then she was told about a special program BESB runs for blind people who are homebound. Those in the program work on crafts and other projects at home, and the products are eventually sold, mainly through a joint program with local Lions Club organizations.
[The article continues] The program is designed to be therapeutic, [Fred] Zaiko [BESB director of industries] said, and give participants a feeling of self -worth.
Today the program is solely for people who can't, and probably won't ever, leave their homes [the article says]. But when social workers approached Lunge in the 1960's, they hoped she would eventually be able to [you guessed it] work at the workshop.
She did. [I interrupt the newspaper story to ask how long did it take for Services to the Blind to assist this blind worker to get out of the home and into the workshop? The article tells us. Remember that services began for this blind woman in the 1960's.] After gaining confidence while working in the home program [says the article], Lunge in 1981 began traveling to the workshop to sew. Now she's a receptionist there.
In 1991 Lunge was chosen as the National Blind Worker of the Year.
"If you don't have any goals, you just sit and feel sorry for yourself. That's what I did," Lunge said. "Here you don't have a chance to do that. Here" you are a busy, normal person going off to work. That is a gift you cannot imagine."
This is the description of services for the blind printed in the newspaper. A young woman with a baby suffers serious medical problems in 1962 and eventually becomes blind. She remains homebound, being served by the agency for the blind until 1981. In 1981 she begins sewing at the workshop and finally becomes a receptionist. The lowest wage for the blind at the workshop is $1.50 an hour. The average wage for blind people is $3.50 an hour. She is grateful for her job. She does not believe she deserves such good fortune. Those who work at the agency have given her a gift of such great value that it is hard to imagine.
However, viewed in proper perspective, such a gift might be known by the ugly name of exploitation. If Kathy Lunge is today capable of being a receptionist, is it believable that she was only capable of sitting at home year after year? The images clash. The professionals at the Connecticut agency for the blind have discovered that there are blind people who believe that there is no alternative to the boredom of sitting at home except work at the workshop. Maybe these professionals don't know any better. Maybe they don't have any incentive to know any better. Maybe if their own lives were involved, they would find a way to know better.
In their despair (in the circumstances, how could it be otherwise?), many of the blind caught in this trap are prepared to take any alternative they can getno matter how small. And they are prepared to be grateful for it. The professionals at the agency encourage that attitude.
The situation in Connecticut is further complicated by the fact that the volunteer board responsible for the operation of the agency seems both responsive and sensible, but the professionals who administer the program have all the advantages in their effort to maintain the status quo. I met the chairman of the board this spring. He is an intelligent, sensitive human beingand he has the strongest possible motivation to see that programs for the blind in Connecticut function imaginatively and well. He has a blind son. But he is not knowledgeable in the complexities of the federal/state bureaucratic maze, a maze in which the professionals can hide and dodge and double talk. Moreover, he does not have an extensive background in dealing with blind people. What is he to do when he is told, "Yes, but your son is differentyour son is not like these other poor helpless blind people, who can do nothing else but spend their days in the workshop or at home!" He will have to be strong, indeed, to go up against the oddsto resist the seduction of the flattery, to ferret out the facts from the fiction, and to find the time and the courage to match wits with the bureaucrats, who have nothing better to do all day every day but to wage the contest and build their image of sensitive expertise. Maybe he can do it. I hope he can. It sometimes happens. But the odds are against him. It goes without saying that we will help him and the other members of the board if we can, but it will be a race between whether he can bring the professionals into line before they get there first and poison him against the organized blind movement.
The professionals at the agency for the blind in Connecticut may believe that the blind are unimportantthat we resemble children. But we know better. We who are blind are not inactive; we are not inferior; and we will not behave as if we were. Perhaps there was a time when second-rate jobs and substandard wages in the sheltered shop were all that the blind could hope to get, but that time is no more. We have the understanding, the energy, and the determination; and we are prepared, if need be, to meet confrontation with confrontation. We recognize that future conditions will be the consequences of present acts. But above all we will act.
A master's degree program to instruct teachers of the blind at Northern Illinois University distributes to the candidates for advanced degrees information about how to assist the blind and those with low vision. This course of study is euphemistically known as Programs in Vision. Apparently the word blind is not to be used by the professionals because it connotes inferiority. One of the teaching tools in the program is a document entitled "Over 65 Tips & Tricks for People with Low Vision to Use in the Home. " The abstruse nature of this educational program and" the depth of understanding required to comprehend it are indicated by its so-called tips. Keep in mind that this information is not offered in undergraduate school but only in the master's program. Here are some of the tips for you if you're not totally blind that isif you have enough remaining vision to be able to perform these complex maneuvers. Those who are totally blind will have to wait. Here is tip number one.
Place the cat's food and water on a small table to avoid stepping in it.
That's not a bad idea. Maybe you could place the cat on the table along with the food and water to avoid stepping on it. But back to the tips.
Tie brightly colored ribbon bows to the ends of TV or radio antennae.
Why would a person want to do that? Is it easier to locate the television if there's a bright red bow on the end of the antenna? Or do the professors in the vision program at Northern Illinois University think that these bright colors will cheer us up? When I have visited blind people in their homes, I haven't found any such bowsand there aren't any in mine. But then, of course, I am totally blind. But there is more.
Staple drinking straws onto cupboard shelves or drawers [the document tells us] to create organizational areas. [Or here's an imaginative one.] Floating objects such as ice cubes or a clean ping-pong ball help in determining whether a glass is full.
Think about this one for a moment. Your company comes over, and you want to offer refreshments. So you fetch out glasses and a bowl of ping-pong balls. You pour in a little liquid and drop in a ping-pong ball. If the ping-pong ball thumps on the bottom of the glass, you can be sure more liquid is needed. If not, you have a choice. You can pour more liquid or add more ping-pong balls. But there are unanswered questions which have not been addressed in this list of helpful hints. How many ping-pong balls should go into the glass? Do you give the glass to your guest with or without ping-pong balls? At Northern Illinois University there is a program to study these weighty matters, and professors to teach such things. But here is another tip this is for the bathroom.
Use a contrasting color toilet seat cover so it's very obvious whether the lid is up or down.
The assumptions in these suggestions about the ability of the blind would be amusing if they were not so serious. We can't figure out if the toilet seat is up or down, can't find the TV without a big red bow, can't avoid stepping in the cat food unless it's on a table, and can't organize cupboards or drawers without stapling drinking straws to them. What do the professors at Northern Illinois University think blind people are like? If you still have doubts, perhaps this suggestion about making the bed will make the matter clear.
Make the bed once with great care [the document says]; mark each sheet and blanket where it touches the corners of the bed with safety pinseach time thereafter when the bed is made up, simply line up the corners.
I don't know when the professors at Northern Illinois University learned to make their beds, but I remember doing it when I was four or five years old. My mother didn't know it was so complicated. She taught me to do it without the pins. Now that you have been informed by those who teach the teachers of the blind that this task is more intricate and difficult than you had imagined, you can go back to your hotel rooms, locate the corners of your beds, and insert the safety pins. And for all of this you can thank the professors at Northern Illinois University.
Can they really believe it? Do they imagine that blind people are so backward that teachers of the blind should study bed-making for the blind at the post-graduate level? Do they think we resemble small children? Oh, but I am being presumptuous! It is not the blind that they are talking about. They believe you have to have a little sight to do the things they prescribe. They don't believe the totally blind can do these things at all. If the high-powered educators think this way, is it any wonder that newspaper reporters and the general public sometimes misunderstand? We are not children, and we will not be treated as children. Let them teach bed-making to each other if they want. But let them leave us out of it, and let them leave educational programs for teachers of the blind out of it. We prefer peace and goodwill, but we are prepared to meet confrontation with confrontation if we must. We have the determination, the understanding, and the energyand we will act.
In 1996 are there still people who believe that the blind resemble children? Indeed there are, and sometimes the message is being driven home with such force that it is accepted and internalized even by some of the blind. The myth is powerful and destructive. But no matter how powerful or destructive, it can and will be changed. We of the National Federation of the Blind are determined to make it so, and we will not be swayed from the purpose.
There are newspaper reporters who fail to comprehend that we are coming to be as much a part of society as they are and that this trend must and will continue to accelerate. There are professionals in agencies for the blind who use us for their own endswho tell us that services for the blind are adequate when they get blind people out of the home and into the workshop at subminimum wages. There are professors at the university who insist that we tie bright ribbons on our television antennae and put ping-pong balls in our glasses. They say that matters of such moment should be elevated to the university classroom at the postgraduate level. There are still blind people who are beaten down and kept outforced to sit at home and accept custody and, moreover, made to like it.
Since some may (either deliberately or otherwise) misunderstand what I am saying, let me sort some things out for the record. Not all university programs that train teachers for the blind are negative or trivial in their performance. Far from it. Not all state agencies for the blind are regressive in their behavior. And not all newspaper reporters are lacking in perception. In fact, I am glad to say that many of the universities, most of the state agencies, and a growing number of reporters are living in today's reality and working with positive and constructive attitudes. It is for this very reason that we must call attention to those that are not. A few (I emphasize, a few) professionals in the field of work with the blind still live in the yesterday of limited understanding and negative concepts about the capacity of the blind. These we are determined to change, and we will not be swayed from the purpose. We are just as determined to support and work in partnership with those who live in the present and look to THE future.
Yes, the things I have described are still occurring in 1996; and if that were all of the story, the picture would be bleak beyond bearing. But that is not all of the story not even the most important part of it. You and I, the National Federation of the Blind, are the other part of the equationthe element that is making the difference, the factor that has been of increasing importance since 1940 and that today is the moving force.
Maturity demands that we be prepared to expend effort and tolerate pain. It also requires that we range backward in time to understand the causes of present conditions and that we look forward to anticipate future consequences of present acts.
If the professors in Illinois, the agency officials in Connecticut, and the reporter in Maryland are correct in their assessment, blindness is intolerable and so is our future. But of course they are not correct. Their logic is false, and their perceptions are those of a bygone era, totally failing to take into account the realities of today and the possibilities of tomorrow. Their maturity is at the level of the children they believe we resemble.
Let us leave it at that. Ultimately our concern is not with them but with what lies ahead. Our progress toward full participation in society is accelerating, and our goal of full citizenship is near at hand. What stretches before us will not be easy (none of the travel on our road to freedom has been), but we have come a great way farther than we still have to go.
Let me conclude, as I have so often done, by reminding you of the commitment that holds us together and guides our actions. As we go forward, you have the right to expect that I as President will never ask you to make sacrifices that I am not willing to make, that I will not ask you to take risks that I am not willing to take. You have the right to expect that I will lead and that I will do it decisively. You have the right to expect that I will give to you and our movement my time, my effort, my devotionand, yes, my love. And I have the right to expect certain things from you. This week you elected me again as President, and by that act you undertook by implication an equal commitment. You gave me the responsibility of standing in the front ranks to lead by example and not just with words. Here in your presence I publicly pledge to bring all that I have to the effort. I made that commitment ten years ago when you first elected me to be your President, and I repeat it tonight. I have tried to live up to it every day that I have been in office, and I will try to live up to it every day in the future.
That is my unequivocal commitment. Now let me say a word about what is required of you. I have the right to expect that you will support me in my efforts, that you will share with me our triumphs, and also that you will stand by me in time of trouble and disappointment. These mutual commitments are what make us a family and not just an association, a movement and not just an organization. As we look to the year ahead, let us go with pride; let us go with confidence; let us go with maturity. My brothers and my sisters, we will make it come true.