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Imagineering Our Future

  Issue 95

March 2017  

Message from the President

Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

About Dr. Bolotin

Call to Action: What Can You Do to Help?

News from around the Federation

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Message from the President

Dear Friends:

Sometimes I wonder about the way that words like "inspiring" and "amazing" are used. I have often been told I am amazing, especially when doing normal things like walking down the street—I have never heard a passerby who is not blind be called amazing for doing the same thing. I often reply with something like, “firefighters are amazing,” to emphasize that knowingly putting yourself in harm's way is more amazing than walking down the street. Then I begin to wonder what I would think were I a firefighter who happened to be blind. I have to conclude that I would have the same qualities of being a firefighter that would make me think I was amazing. On the other hand, I probably would not think of myself as amazing as my daily experience would give me a certain perspective that I do not now possess.

Inspiration comes from observing qualities in others that we wish we had, that we strive to acquire or master, or that we do not believe we are capable of achieving. This is what comes to mind for me when I consider the life of Jacob Bolotin and what the awards now bearing his name represent. Dr. Bolotin died at age thirty-six, and his achievements over that short time put my forty years to shame. His drive, determination, inventiveness, and compassion are qualities that even the best of our society would have to admire. This admiration is equally deserved by the recipients of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards offered by the National Federation of the Blind. Each year we give awards in Dr. Bolotin’s name that celebrate characteristics in individuals and organizations that inspire and that are worthy of being admired.

Most importantly, the Bolotin Awards help to raise expectations for the blind. They remind us that walking down the street is not an amazing feat for a blind person even if those who have not experienced blindness and the alternative techniques we use might sometimes think otherwise. These awards and their recipients inspire us to surpass our pre-conceived notions of what we can do individually and collectively. It is through that community, with raised expectations, that we recognize the truth that together with love, hope, and determination, we transform dreams into reality.

As you walk through your day and find examples of inspiration, admire them and use that experience to raise your own expectations. As you find those examples in individuals and organizations working to improve opportunities for the blind, please nominate them for our 2017 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards so that we all might have the opportunity to be inspired. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of our Bolotin Award winners over the years. I anticipate again being inspired to raise my own expectations by our 2017 winners at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind this summer.

Keep striving,

Graphic: Signature of Mark Riccobono

Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

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Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

The NFB’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards program encourages and recognizes exemplary accomplishments being made by and on behalf of blind people in the United States. These annual awards include a commemorative plaque and cash prize presented to each recipient. Categories of eligible recipients are blind individuals, sighted individuals, and organizations, which may be nonprofit and/or for-profit corporations. These categories are specified to encourage a variety of applications from virtually anyone—individuals or organizations—having worthy projects or accomplishments on behalf of the blind. Annually, NFB awards up to $50,000 in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to four or more recipients each year.

2016 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Winners

Supported in part from a bequest received in 2007, the first awards in the name of Dr. Jacob Bolotin were presented at the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in 2008. Applications are solicited from mid-November to mid-April. Partial support for these awards comes from a special trust established by Dr. Bolotin’s late nephew and niece, Alfred and Rosalind Perlman.

Please visit the NFB’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards webpage for more information about the 2017 awards program and links to our application criteria and online submission process.

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About Dr. Bolotin

Dr. Jacob Bolotin

Born in 1888, Jacob Bolotin attended the Illinois state school for the blind and then later graduated from medical school in Chicago to become the world’s first fully licensed medical doctor, blind since birth. Although he died in 1924, sixteen years before the National Federation of the Blind was organized, Dr. Bolotin was an early Federationist in spirit if not in name. As recounted in his biography, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story by Rosalind Perlman, Jacob Bolotin fought prejudice and misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people in order to win acceptance to medical school and then into the medical profession. He was one of the most respected physicians in Chicago in the early twentieth century, particularly well known for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs.

Aside from his prowess in practicing medicine, Dr. Bolotin dedicated considerable attention, time, and energy to raising awareness of the true capabilities of blind people. He did this through his many public speaking engagements. He used his celebrity status in Chicago and throughout the midwest to champion the rights of the blind to education and employment with full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its first leader. Commenting in 1914 on Dr. Bolotin’s accomplishments, the Philadelphia Inquirer observed, "It is one of the most amazing instances of mind triumphant over physical handicaps that the world has ever known... [Dr. Bolotin] will rank with Helen Keller as one of the wonderful blind persons of history."

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Call to Action: What Can You Do to Help?

  • Share your story, and encourage others to share theirs, on social media (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) using #WhyImAFederationist. Tell us what the NFB means to you or how the NFB has helped you.
  • Please visit the NFB’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards webpage for more information about the 2017 awards program and links to our application criteria and online submission process.

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News from around the Federation

Thank you for reading Imagineering Our Future.

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National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells St.
Baltimore, 21230
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(410) 659-9314



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