Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2
[PICTURE] Wayne Pearcy
[PICTURE] Angela Sasser
[PICTURE] John E. Cheadle
Editor's Note: Of all the speakers and panels at the 1995 Parents Seminar, there was probably not one as well received as this panel. Made up mostly of children and youth, parents heard first-hand from the kids themselves what they have learned about blindness from the NFB. Here are the presentations of three of those youngsters; Wayne Percy, age 8, of Louisiana; Angela Sasser, a blind teen also from Louisiana; and John E. Cheadle, a sighted sibling from Maryland (yes, he is related to this editor-he's my son).
The great things that can happen when you live with a blind family in the NFB.
I am Wayne Pearcy. My mother is Zena Pearcy. My dad is Jeff Pearcy. My parents are blind. They have been members of the NFB for twenty years. I attended my first convention when I was five years old. I attended my first state convention when I was five months old. I learned to use a cane when I was two years old. I learned to write and read Braille when I was four. I think that all people should use Braille at an early age. It's swell to be in the NFB cause there's a lot of blind people around you. I like going to conventions. I like playing with blind kids. I like the NFB film about Braille.
When I go to school, I use Braille in all my classes. Sometimes, my teachers don't understand that I need to use my cane. My parents make them understand about my cane.
Thanks to all of you for listening to my speech. I hope you enjoyed it. Good bye.
Fire is a symbol of eternity; so strong that a single flame can burn down an entire forest, yet so gentle that it can warm the hearts of friends and family on a cold winter's evening.
It symbolizes hope for those who are looking for light at the end of their tunnel. Such as for a lost little boy who sees a flickering candle in a window and knows that he is no longer alone. Each one of us has a flame in our soul that burns forever and is never blown out, not even when we die.
Take Dr. tenBroek for example, the flame that burned so brightly in his soul is now burning in the souls of us, the newer generations of blind people. He was the one that struck the match that lit the candle of Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer, who passed the candle on to people like Joanne Wilson and Ramona Walhof, who taught my generation about the ideas and philosophy behind the National Federation of the Blind.
When I went blind four year ago, I had a spark that wanted so badly to become a raging fire of ideas and ambitions. But I couldn't fan the fire on my own. I needed encouragement and education, and guess where I found it-the National Federation of the Blind.
In a way I was like that lost little boy. I was lost too. I had no idea how to use alternative techniques to do things. But the Louisiana Center for the Blind was the candle in the window for me. They gave me the hope and encouragement that I needed to live my life as a normal kid. They taught me Braille so I can read out loud with the rest of my classmates. They taught me cane travel skills so I can keep up with my friends when I'm out and can go on a date without having to ask the guy to take me to the bathroom.
Having been taught these little things, I know I can take on the bigger things in life. Through the past four years I have not only done the usual growing, but the spark inside has also grown into a fire that I wish to use to light the candle of hope for others as past generations of blind people have done for me. I thank the NFB for making growing up a little easier.
JOHN EARL CHEADLE
One spring afternoon as I lay relaxing in my room the phone rang. I picked up the receiver and started talking to the lady on the other end of the line. The conversation, a fairly typical exchange relating each of our adventures over the course of the day, took an unexpected turn when she asked me to give a speech on the benefits of growing up in the NFB, and give it at the NFB's National Convention, no less.
After thinking of a number of answers I could have given this woman I finally responded, "Sure, Mom. I'd be happy to."
Sitting down to write this speech, I first felt absolutely overwhelmed at the enormous nature of the task at hand. How was I supposed to put into words the positive effects of eighteen years, my entire lifetime of experience with the NFB. Then a revelation of divine proportions struck me. All my life the NFB had provided me with the essential ingredient necessary to lead a happy and productive life, lots and lots of good food.
Now, while it's true that excellent refreshments and meals are served at NFB picnics, cookouts, chapter meetings, state conventions, and of course here at the National Convention, I'm not talking about just that kind of food. I'm talking about, for instance, brain food.
Through the NFB I have come in contact with some of the leading minds in areas as diverse as statistical mathematics and social justice. I can't count how many times I've quoted Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, or President Maurer to create a more intellectual term paper or class discussion.
Barbara Pierce and her thorough knowledge of post-secondary institutions was invaluable to me as I embarked upon my college search last year. I helped read for Scott LaBarre as he studied for his Legal Bar exam and learned more than I ever wanted to know about Tort legislation.
The vast literature of the NFB has helped me complete more than a few school projects, and the people of this organization have been to me teachers and mentors as excellent as those in any school.
And so I am exceedingly thankful for the brain food of the NFB.
Additionally, the NFB has raised me on a healthy diet of justice ever since I was born. As an infant, I was protesting unfair treatment of the blind. I'm sure my parents will be happy to show you pictures of my days picketing in a stroller.
For most people my age, justice is simply another assignment in a philosophy or literature class. Probably given to them about the time they are sleeping off last night's party. But for me, it is alive! My parents work for it day in and day out. My sister and my brother and I have to educate our peers at every turn that the blind deserve to be treated justly because they are normal people and therefore should be given all the normal human rights to which everyone in this nation is entitled.
I've watched and on occasion helped the NFB correct injustices of every sort: small injustices and large ones; those that are swiftly defeated and those that require years of fighting before they are finally trampled into dust; those injustices derived from ignorance and those that are brutally intentional. The NFB has given me energy, philosophy, and strategy to fight injustice.
And so I count justice food as one of the best benefits of growing up in the NFB.
Finally, I could not talk about the benefits of being an NFB kid without mentioning my brother Charles, who's blind. Known to many of you as Chaz. Please allow me a moment to brag on my brother.
He is enrolled in the high school from which I graduated a month ago, earning A's and B's in college level courses offered there. He's active in his Boy Scout troop and is working on his Eagle project. He plays guitar, harmonica, and a little piano.
He was recently appointed to the Governor's Committee on Service for the State of Maryland and has put in countless hours of volunteer work at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.
Chaz has given me quite a bit of first-hand experience with a blind person although I rarely think of him that way anymore. He's my brother. He helps me out when I need it; he makes me laugh, even when I don't feel like laughing. And he finishes off the food on my plate when I am too stuffed to move.
The NFB has given me one of the best foods of all. Brotherhood.
However these foods in and of themselves, are not the most wonderful gifts I have received. The food of the National Federation of the Blind has provided me with a second family. In most cultures and religions food holds the status of importance beyond the alleviation of physical hunger. It represents community; community with nature or God or other people. This is the greatest benefit of growing up in the NFB-being an integral part of a community to which I give some of my energy but from which I derive a power so much greater than my own that who I am is no longer defined solely by my personal achievements but increasingly by the achievements of the community in which I function. The great benefits of growing up in the NFB have included such rich varieties and enormous volumes of food that it is with a proud and thankful heart that I say...I am fed up to here with the NFB!