Future Reflections September- December 1983, Vol. 2 No. 5

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REPORT ON THE PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN DIVISION OF THE NFB: AN EXCITING BEGINNING

by Susan Ford

The 1983 NFB Convention will be remembered as the convention where we launched our Parents of Blind Children Division. At the beginning of the Saturday, July 2nd, Seminar for Parents of Blind Children, we accepted members, held an election for officers, and read and distributed copies of our new constitution. The elected officers are: President, Susan Ford; First Vice-President, Frank Smith; Second Vice-President, Lena Vasseur; Secretary, Beverly Helmboldt; Treasurer, Barbara Cheadle. (Be sure to read, "Profile," in this issue. It tells a little about each of the new officers.)

We were pleased and fortunate to have Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, our national president, preside over the elections. Dr. Jernigan also made some comments before turning the gavel over to me, the new division president. I think his words tell us better than any I could write just what our hopes and goals are, and why every knowledgeable parent should join with us to achieve those goals. So, here are Dr. Jernigan's comments and with it our invitation to you to join the Parents of Blind Children Division so that we can all work together to make the world a better place for our children.

DR. JERNIGAN'S COMMENTS AT SEMINAR FOR PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN

I grew up, as many of you know, as a blind child. There were happy moments, there were also moments that were pure hell. Many of you in this room share that experience. I believe that my parents loved me, and loved me sincerely. But I also know that my parents did not have the benefit of much knowledge that is available today that would have made their task easier and my life, at that time, better. That is not to say that I believe my life has not been a full life, for I believe it has.

... There is no task that we as blind people, that we as an organized movement, have which is more important than trying to make a better world for our children. And furthermore, the blind children of this generation, although they may not be biologically the children of all of us in this room, are, nevertheless, morally and spiritually, our children.

What we do as we start this division will have a tremendous impact upon the lives of blind children today and blind children still unborn. That is why the National Federation of the Blind is not only willing, but determined, to put the effort, the treasury, the intelligence, the know-how, the dedication and committment into the project of making this division succeed, and of making life better for blind people tomorrow than it is today, and next year than it is tomorrow, and a decade from now even better than next year. That is the responsibility that all of you have taken as officers of this division, but it is also the responsibility that you in the division, as members, have taken, by saying you want to be part of it. It is the responsibility you, as parents, should take -- whether you are members of this organization or not.

And one final thing I would say about all of that. It is very hard for me to understand how any caring, thinking, knowledgeable (and please keep in mind all three: caring, thinking, knowledgeable) parent could fail to want to be part of the National Federation of the Blind. Because the National Federation of the Blind is blind people speaking for themselves, the National Federation of the Blind is out working, with undivided loyalties, to try to make life better for blind people.

There is, as you may know, another parents' group in this country, and our purpose is not to see if we can engage in war with anybody. But on the other hand, I'm terribly troubled when I realize that the real leader of that parents group was, after that person was put in as the leader of that group, employed as a paid staff member of the American Foundation for the Blind. I find that troubling. I find it troubling because I believe that if the foundation were to take a given position, and if the parents were to want to take another position, it would be very, very difficult for the paid staff member of the foundation to act fully out of conscience, that is not to say that he does not have a conscience, or that he might not even so act in what he thought to be the best interest of the blind children. But you know as well as I do that it is very easy for people to rationalize, especially when their own paycheck is involved.

What we must have here is an organization that is independent and without strings, controlled by the blind and parents of the blind. That's really the task we have. As I have said, we undertake a tremendous and important responsibility this day in starting the division. I hope that this division will become the most active division in this organization, that you will go forth and recruit members, that you will in every way possible carry out the purpose clause of this constitution, which boils down to a single thing of making life better for blind people. That's what it is all about. You have the pledge of the whole national body of the Federation that it will do all that it knows how to fulfill that purpose; it is the pledge of the blind of this generation to the blind of the next generation. You, as the parents, must help transmit that pledge into reality.

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