Future Reflections Convention 1994, Vol. 13 No. 4
by Barbara Pierce
Editor's Note: Every year Mrs. Barbara Pierce does an in-depth convention report for the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind. Reprinted below are the opening paragraphs of Mrs. Pierce's 1994 NFB Convention narrative report from the August-September, 1994, Braille Monitor issue.
Sometimes annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind are filled with a sense of history in the making, like the one in 1986 in which we elected Marc Maurer as President for the first time. Sometimes they are stirring and full of challenge, like our fiftieth anniversary convention in 1990. Sometimes they ring with exuberance and high spirits, like the 1991 convention in New Orleans. And sometimes they manage to embody both the pain and the joy of family life, the height and depth of human experience-which, when freely embraced, create true community in an organization or a people.
The 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind was such an event. At one extreme was the joyful wedding of long-time Federationist Harold Snider and Linda Fossett, following the noon recess of the Tuesday morning general convention session. The Rev. Robert Eschbach performed the ceremony, and the entire convention was invited to attend.
At the other extreme was the death early Tuesday morning of little Justin Buterbaugh of Phoenix, Arizona, who was two years old. He had a history of seizures and died quietly and instantly in his sleep. His mother, Maria, had recently learned about the Federation and was attending her first convention. She had already formed several friendships and had been overjoyed to discover the hope and optimism of the NFB's approach to working with blind children.
The entire convention was shocked and grieved when President Maurer explained the tragedy at the opening of the Tuesday morning session, and Federationists rallied 'round with the love and concern that we have come to expect and depend upon at such times of sorrow in our Federation family. NFB friends surrounded and supported Maria throughout that difficult day and accompanied her home to Phoenix. When Federationists learned on Wednesday of the Buterbaugh family's need for substantial financial help to deal with the heartbreaking expenses associated with the tragedy, members immediately contributed nearly $4,000 to help.
Late in the week Jim Omvig, one of the leaders of the Arizona affiliate and Chairman of the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan Committee, reported to the convention a conversation he had had with Maria after her return home. She talked of the funeral arrangements. Then she asked how efforts to sign up more people on the PAC Plan were going. In response to his statement that he hadn't yet had much time to work on PAC but that he was sure people would respond positively, she said:
"I learned while I was there that the most important thing in this world for any parent of any blind child is to have literature produced by the National Federation of the Blind and to come to the National Convention. Please ask people for me to help fund the organization."
That spirit of determination and dedication to the Federation and its mission, come what may, permeated the entire convention and made it unforgettable.