2020 Rookie Roundup

PAM ALLEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our 2020 Rookie Roundup. We're so glad all of you are with us this evening. We know there are hundreds of people from all over the country joining together with us, to celebrate, to come together, to kick off festivities that will lead to our National Federation of the Blind convention anywhere and everywhere. So we're so thrilled that all of you have joined us this evening. Welcome. I want to give a special welcome to all of our first-time attendees tonight. I know that we have many people who are joining with us as part of our Federation family to learn more about the powerful work that we do together in the National Federation of the Blind. So a very special welcome to all of our first-timers. And I also want to extend my appreciation to all of our veterans that are here tonight with us, supporting our first-timers and helping make our 2020 Convention the best ever. We have many great things in store for everyone this evening. You'll be hearing from many different people. Kicking off our Convention festivities, and sharing tips and ideas about how to experience our convention. And of course, the most important part of our convention is all of you that are listening tonight, and everyone that is taking part in our convention. Again, thank you all for being here. Just a couple housekeeping things that I wanted to share this evening. Everyone is muted this evening. So just to let everybody know that. We are, those of you who are using our platform, you'll see that there's an opportunity to ask questions and answers, and I really appreciate our communications team for being available and answering other questions. If you have questions, I know many of them will be answered throughout the event tonight, but also that is available for anyone who has questions that come up during the event. And we are going to get started with our program! We've got lots of great things in store. So we will first kick off this event. I always, you know, when I think about our Rookie Roundup, I imagine us all together, even though we are covering from coast to coast in our country, and I know we have people from all around the world joining with us this evening for our Rookie Roundup. Even though we are physically not together, I know that we are virtually together. And I feel the strength, and I feel the energy, and I feel the excitement! I know how much we've all been looking forward to Convention 2020 for that time to come together. And for those of you that are with us for the first time this evening, you are in for a treat, and an experience of a lifetime, being part of our Convention. So, to start our evening festivities for tonight, it is my pleasure to introduce for their remarks our president, Mark Riccobono, and our first lady, Melissa Riccobono. Many of you have had the chance, those of you who are attending Convention for the first time, to read, to hear remarks from President Riccobono and first lady Melissa and to hear about their wonderful children, their commitment to blind parents, and the incredible example that they are to each of us of independence, of empowerment, and of love, and the spirit that is embodied in the National Federation of the Blind. So I am going to turn it over to President Riccobono and to First Lady Melissa.

MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you very much. How are you doing this evening?

PAM ALLEN: I'm doing great. How are you?

MARK RICCOBONO: Excellent. We're doing great. Normally I would let Melissa go first, that's the right thing to do

PAM ALLEN: A wise husband.

(Laughter.)

MARK RICCOBONO: There you go. But I wanted to talk to you for a second about what we've been doing together, and I know we're getting a little feedback because we're both unmuted. But first of all, Pam, thank you for your leadership, especially over these last three months, four months! Gosh, time is flying by. I just want to walk us down memory lane for a second about what we've been doing. Pam, you'll remember, we were in discussion around March, the Louisiana affiliate convention was coming up. And you were the first one to make the hard decision to go virtual, to not have a convention, that is. And that was a tough time for us, not to really think about gathering in our state affiliate. And I commend you for making that decision, and making it happen. But so much more happened after that, as you'll remember. You know, on March 13th or so, the National Board made the decision to call for all meetings, in-person meetings of the Federation, to be on hold and for us to go virtual. We started spitting out Zoom licenses to our affiliates at that time. The next week, we started going virtual with some of our staff, sending them remote. On March 18th, just a few days later, our Colorado affiliate -- hats off to our National Federation of the Blind of Colorado for being the first to start spinning up virtual Federation events on March 18th. On the 23rd of March was our last day of having our headquarters open and available. By the way, I didn't mention, I'm sitting here right now, in the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, here in the Mc-George living room. Speaking of Colorado. So on March 23rd, we closed down the building and sent all our staff remote. Week after week, we were working on these things that just kept coming! And, you know what, during that time, we also were continually evaluating our national convention, what we would want to do. But we knew that it was months away, we didn't have to make the decision right away. Remember April 22nd we had the first presidential release, live, and we didn't have as many people then as we did this evening between being on Zoom and YouTube, watching us live on YouTube, but we had our first presidential release live. After that, the board of directors made the decision to go virtual for this convention. And we had no idea what it was going to be like. We hadn't even called the hotel in Houston -- by the way, our hearts do go out to Houston. They're in the middle of the height of it right now. We hadn't even called the hotel. That wasn't even part of our decision making. We made the commitment to go virtual. Because of the great board we have, we looked at it and talked to our hold contacts. But we had already decided what we were going to do. And the board made a very important decision. We decided this convention was so important, we were going to throw the doors open and have registration be free! So I just want to tip the hat to our leaders for really making that commitment to open up our 2020 Convention, really make it accessible to as many people as possible. And planning the convention has not been easy. We've had to rethink everything. We've had the challenges of both time -- not enough -- and, by the way, all of our regular work is still happening! I mean, we have not slowed down one bit. We had to rethink the whole convention, and we looked at a lot of platforms out there for all the things we wanted to do. And accessibility is a challenge. We've done, we think, a great job. We know we're going to find some glitches in our app and some other things. But I think this is going to truly be our biggest and best convention ever. Now, Pam, I just have a question for you, though.

PAM ALLEN: Uh-huh, yes.

MARK RICCOBONO: For all that work we've done... when we decided to go virtual, what kind of numbers did you think we would register for this convention?

PAM ALLEN: (Sighing), you know, it's hard to say. I mean, obviously... I'm thinking... maybe... definitely over... definitely over 3,000...

MARK RICCOBONO: Okay, yeah.

PAM ALLEN: Um, I would say...

(Laughter.)

I mean, we've talked a lot about record-breaking... and I thought, you know, the sky's the limit with virtual!

MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah.

PAM ALLEN: Because it's anywhere and everywhere.

MARK RICCOBONO: Yeah. Well, we're going to get to that number very soon. But I did want to turn it over here in a second, but I wanted to walk down that memory lane of what we've done in the last four months, because really it's because of the tremendous board of directors that we have, and really the members across the Federation, from Colorado to California, all over the place, our members have stepped up in a big way. And I think you're going to see it when we talk about the numbers for the convention. But I could not give that to you before really very appropriately letting our first lady of the Federation kick this thing off and talk to you about some important stuff happening at the convention. So Melissa, she's here in the living room too...

MELISSA RICCOBONO: Good evening, fellow Federationists. I'm so excited to be with all of you here virtually, although I have to say I'm missing the excitement of all that crowd and crowd noise. So I'm just imagining it in my head. Because there's nothing like the energy of a Rookie Roundup, and nothing like the energy of the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. And I know that we are going to get there for sure. We're going to have a wonderful, delightful NFB convention full of energy, full of networking opportunities, and full of connections and full of love. One of the best ways to connect with other convention attendees has always been to visit our presidential suite. And we are so excited that this year we're going to have the presidential suite virtually. We weren't sure exactly how it was going to work. That was one of the things we had to rethink and think about. But we were able to figure it out, and we are so excited to be able to provide you a place to come to talk with people that will be in the suite, hosting it, talk with others who come in, drop in, and you can make appointments, or ask for an appointment to speak with the President. You can ask about being appointed to different committees of the National Federation of the Blind. You can leave messages for the President or for me, I guess, for that matter! I don't generally get messages in the suite, but you can certainly do that. So I just wanted to let you know, the information will be in the agenda, but just so that you are aware, the suite is open every single day. Now, unfortunately, President Riccobono and I wish we could be there every single day, all the time. We just can't. We have too much going on. And I'm sure that none of you are going to be able to be at the suite every single day all the time, because you have way too much going on! I'll get to that in a minute, our wonderful agenda. But the suite will be open July 14, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. July 15th, from 9:00 a.m.  to 1:00 p.m. And again from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. July 16th, from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., and again from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, we have hours from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and Saturday, your last chance to visit the suite, is from 9:00 a.m. until noon. So we are so excited to offer this, and we really hope that all of you find a chance to drop in to the suite. The only thing that I'm super sad about is we cannot give you virtual M and Ms, cherries, soda, or coffee, and popcorn. I'm sorry about that. But we'll definitely have people that will be happy to welcome you to answer any questions that you have, to help you network with others, so please stop by the presidential suite. We're really excited to offer that this year. I'm also the co-host of the Nations Blind podcast. We'll have some content. Anil Lewis and I will be on 30 minutes before the General Sessions. We really understand that people sort of miss that ability to hear the convention hall, kind of those noises as it fills up. We're really excited to be offering this 30 minutes before. So feel free to tune in a little bit early, and see what Anil and I will be talking about. We'll be talking about what's coming up in the sessions, probably talk a little bit about previous sessions. So please feel free to tune in a little bit early if you're able to. I was just looking at the agenda. I mean, there's just, as always, something for everyone. Blind parents. Educators. Lawyers. Parents of blind children. And students and youth. And everyone is welcome, and we are just so excited to have all of you joining us. We just wanted you to know, and I wanted you to know, that I wish I could meet all of you. Please, again, stop by the suite. I'd love to talk to you if I'm there. And I wanted to let you know before I leave that you are all needed, and you are all loved. Together, with love, hope, and determination, we do transform dreams into reality at the National Federation of the Blind. I'm so excited to be part of this Rookie Roundup, and everybody have a fantastic convention

MARK RICCOBONO: Thanks, Melissa. I want to now extend my welcome to everybody, to our 2020 national convention, what I am confident will be our biggest and best convention ever. And we've had a lot of hard work, and it's all going to be worth it. I do want to welcome our first-timers, our genuine first-timers -- we're all first-timers, but our genuine first-timers, to the convention. Come on in. Check it out. We hope that you will decide to be members of the National Federation of the Blind when this is all done. Please do stop by the presidential suite. I'd love to at least say hello, get to know who you are, your delegation can help you figure that out if you need assistance. I have a number of things I need to talk to you about, logistics. I usually don't cover these things at the Rookie Roundup, but it's a special year. First of all, we have made the strong commitment to continue the business of the organization. You know, the Federation keeps moving forward. So our members want to vote. Want to participate actively in the work we're doing at the convention. The convention's our supreme authority. If you're a member of the Federation, and you registered in time, by June 15th, you have been sent information for how to enroll in our voting system. So you need to go to the website, nfbvote.org. And you need to enroll in voting. Now, you don't have to enroll as a voter. But we expect Federationists to participate actively, so we want you to, if you're a member, and if you registered by June 15th, you should have already received information about that. If you have questions about the voting process and how it's going to work and what you should do, you can e-mail Everett Bacon, the chair of the subcommittee that's handling voting efforts. His address is [email protected] Everett is president of the Utah affiliate. Now, tonight, everyone can vote. This is to familiarize you with the voting process. Tonight, everyone can vote. You have until 9:15 p.m. Eastern time to cast your vote. You'll do it by texting or calling this number, which by sometime next week you should have memorized or in your contacts. The number for voting: 667-206-6677. 667-206-6677. What's the question, you want to know? The question is: Is this your first time attending the convention of the National Federation of the Blind? If it is, you'll, in the text message, put the number 1 for yes. Number 1, or yes. If it's not your first convention, which is how I'm going to vote, you'll put number 2, or the word "no" in your text message. You can call that number, you'll get a recording, and it will ask you this question and tell you how you can vote. So everybody can vote on the Rookie Roundup. We'll announce later how many TRUE first-timers we have at this gathering. Last time we looked at this account, there were close to 2,000 people on Zoom, and that doesn't count YouTube or anything. Okay, a few other things quickly. If you're planning to vote at convention, you should have received the proposal from the board of directors for how we'll handle voting and nominations at the convention. I do urge you to support that. The convention will consider it. I think it's a very reasonable approach to managing the virtual business of the organization. We are going to have resolutions, and I do, do urge you to tune into the resolutions committee meeting at 5:00 p.m. on July 15th. The committee will meet and discuss the resolutions. There is going to be a process if you want to speak for or against a resolution. You will need to e-mail [email protected] to get on that list. I urge everybody to study the resolutions before we get to Saturday. I understand the resolutions committee has been very busy taking resolutions. It's a demonstration that our work continues even when we're distant. So please, look at the resolutions. We're going to have a lot of business to get through, assuming they pass the reclusions committee. They're going to be on the internet three hours after the close of the resolutions committee meeting. They'll be on Newsline. I urge you to study the resolutions and be ready to vote on them. If you have announcements that you want to be considered in the general sessions. We normally tell you bring them up in braille. But they probably won't get here in time for the convention. So Beth Braun is going to help you with that. If you e-mail your announcement to Beth Braun, that's [email protected], you can get your announcement considered for the general session. It's going to be a tight packed agenda, so I don't know how many we'll get in, but we'll do our best to get announcements considered. Also, this year you don't have a desk to go to or the presidential suite for committee appointments. If you're interested in a committee of the Federation, you can e-mail [email protected] If you want to know what the committees are, they're listed in the agenda. Pam, two more things, I know I'm running low on time. One is, folks are going to want to have banquet parties. That might mean any number of things. Look, we're not encouraging you to get 100 people in a room, although that would be great. We recognize that's not possible in most places in this country. We want you to stay safe. But maybe you'll have a banquet party with friends via Face Time, or something else, maybe you'll get together with your four closest friends and all wear masks and hang out. We recognize Federationists find innovative ways to get together and connect. We want you to log your banquet party with us so we can drop in, hopefully, to those parties during the banquet. You can e-mail Rebecca Stephens at the national office. [email protected], or call her extension, 2246, to let us know. We're going to try to drop in to those during the convention banquet. Okay. Two other important announcements. One, you'll see that the presidential report is scheduled for 90 minutes. No, don't worry, I'm not going to talk that long! We do have the traditional hour for the presidential report. It will start promptly first thing on Friday. The session starts at 1:30. But I am really excited to announce that we will have Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House in the United States Congress, who will be participating in our convention immediately after the presidential report. This is very exciting. So we're looking forward to welcoming Speaker Pelosi. It's the highest ranking official we've had at our national convention, I think, since 1965. So that's really cool. The Speaker, of course, has roots here in Baltimore. So it's cool from a number of different angles. Now, Pam, do you want me to talk about convention numbers now, or do you want me to hold it for later?

PAM ALLEN: Gosh, you know, there's been so much discussion. A lot of people are just wondering what this is, and when we'll find out. Because, you know, there's been a lot of discussion online!

MARK RICCOBONO: Do you want me to discuss it?

PAM ALLEN: Well, you know, I mean, I think we're ready!

MARK RICCOBONO: Okay. Now, Pam, you remember our largest attendance to date, right?

PAM ALLEN: Well, but of course!

MARK RICCOBONO: What year was that?

PAM ALLEN: That -- I'm very proud to say as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, that it was in 1997, in the great city of New Orleans!

MARK RICCOBONO: Absolutely. I was there. It was a great convention.

PAM ALLEN: Yup!

MARK RICCOBONO: 3,347 registered at that convention. Now, the second biggest was last year in Las Vegas, second biggest ever, 3,284. Just missed it. Now, this evening, I guess this is the first official meeting of the convention, I am proud to announce that at this year's convention, we have registered 7,251 people for our 2021 convention! I think that's pretty exciting, something to be proud of. A huge convention. And that doesn't count all the people who will be tuning in. All the sessions are free, freely available, the Zoom links are out there, and we'll be streaming the general sessions. So I'm confident we'll have 8,000 or 9,000 participants in the convention. So thank you, and welcome to the first timers. We know this number represents a lot of people who are coming to check our convention out. We welcome you. We want you to look around, if you like what you see, we hope you'll pledge to be an active member of our organization. Thank you, Pam. I'll look forward to the rest of the Rookie Roundup and to helping out where I can

PAM ALLEN: Awesome. Thank you so much, and wow, that is incredible. I think we've all been wondering about that, and that's -- you can tell the National Federation of the Blind that we do not stop, no matter... this as President Riccobono said, our virtual gathering, our virtual family reunion, it's record breaking in so many different ways. That would not be possible without all of you here tonight. And as Melissa said, the energy that we feel, that we draw from each other, I know if we were all in the room together, there would be a huge cheer of and round of applause with that number. I can only imagine the thunderous sound of thousands of thousands of people!

MARK RICCOBONO: That would be awesome.

PAM ALLEN: I hope you're all feeling that, and I look forward to our week next week when we'll all join together. Thank you both for your comments and for the love and dedication you show us. And we're looking forward to the presidential suite and those virtual M and Ms!

Now, before I introduce our next speakers, one of the great things that we do at our conventions, President Riccobono has chaired a lot of things that are happening and exciting things that are coming up. We conduct a lot of business. We network. We find mentors, and we share ideas and information. And also, one of the fun things we do is give door prizes. I know that's something we all look forward to at our convention. All of our affiliates and many of our divisions contribute door prizes that are given away at general sessions and banquets. So everyone who is registered for the convention is eligible to win a door prize. And that's always a lot of fun. The door prizes are very representative from our affiliates and come from all over the country. So I know that excitement about winning a door prize is always a lot of fun. We're going to give away a door prize tonight. We, at our convention, during, again, this happens at our general sessions and at the banquet, when door prizes are given. And we have devised a mechanism for awarding door prizes. And so tonight, we are going to have a little bit of practice with that and see who some of our lucky winners are tonight. We're doing things slightly differently this evening, but the concept is the same. So, for our first door prize winner tonight -- and this will be a $30 Visa gift card, that will go to the lucky winner. And that person is Jeremy Levi. Jeremy, congratulations, and in order to claim your door prize, you will please e-mail to the following address: [email protected] Again, that's [email protected] Jeremy, if you could do that in the next ten minutes, that would be fabulous, and we'll give you the specifics of how to claim your prize.

Now, for our convention, when we're meeting in general sessions and at the banquet, just to give people a little preview about that, we will go over directions about how to win the door prize. You'll have the opportunity to either raise your hand, and you can do that a multitude of ways, and we'll talk about that a little bit later, or you can, again, e-mail [email protected] Door prizes are always a lot of fun and make our convention a lot of fun, and I appreciate the affiliates who have given to generously and I thank the door prize team that helps disseminate the door prizes.

The next tradition is for our next group of talkers to welcome the first-timers to Rookie Roundup. It's now my pleasure to introduce for their remarks, our immediate past president and first lady, two people who are very important to me and who have served as great mentors and continue to do so as role models in my life and my husband's life. I'm truly honored to introduce Dr. And Mrs. Maurer for their comments, and welcome for the first timers.

DR. MAURER: Thank you, Pam, it's good to be with you, and with all the people who are attending the Rookie Roundup. I just want you to know, I did vote after I heard that I could vote!

(Laughter.)

So my vote is counted. And we'll have more votes, no doubt, that we can practice on. But anyway, the first one is done for me.

This is a convention that is more than 50 years from the first time I attended a convention. I've got a half-century-plus into it. And it's the first time I haven't been in the room with everybody else. So, in one sense, it's more than 50. And in one sense, it's the first time. As President Riccobono said. And so it's my pleasure, and my joy, to welcome all of the people who are participating in this Rookie Roundup. To welcome all the people who are new who have never come in the past, and are coming the first time. And to welcome everybody who has not come in this way in the past and all of you who are coming for the first time. It's also a joy to say that Pam and Roland are some of the finest people I know, and President Riccobono and Melissa are also some of the finest people I know. These are some of my favorite people in the world. And consequently, it is a joy to be with all of you tonight and to welcome you to the beginning of our convention.

One observation, and that is this. We are meeting this new way at this convention, and the patterns are shifting. We have many, many people more than we've had to attend a convention before this time. And as we do this, we are creating a pattern which will include participation in the room, but also participation in other ways. Consequently, this convention is a first and is a creative convention to determine how we want the meetings and how we want the affairs of the convention to continue into the years ahead. And it is a delight to know that we are creating the future as we want it to be. This year, we cannot participate with each other in the same room. No doubt we'll be back at that in years to come. But also, this gives us a way to know each other that we haven't in the past. And I am joyful to learn how the best way is for us to participate with each other as we go forward in the Federation. So I am pleased to help create the Federation of the decades to come and to participate with you in doing so. Patricia Maurer is with me of course here. And she has a great distinction, which she often lets people know. But I thought maybe I'd let you know. I've been here for more than 50 years. She got here before I did! So here's Patricia Maurer.

 

MARK RICCOBONO: We can't hear you, Mrs. Maurer! We need you to unmute... that's the joy of Zoom. While Mrs. Maurer is getting unmuted, someone asked, I think it was on social media, for the voting number again. I'll give that number again. 667-206-6677. The phone number to vote: 667-206-6677. Mrs. Maurer...

PATRICIA MAURER: Okay. I think I unmuted three or four times now!

(Laughter.)

Okay, okay, so I just wanted to say that I so much appreciate what's already been said. I couldn't say is as well as you guys already said it. But I do wish we could all be in the same room. Not just in the same Zoom room! But this is the best it's going to be. And it's going to be great. I look forward to all of the activities of the convention next week. And I look forward to everybody's participation. I look forward to virtually seeing all of my friends and my Federation family. And I love you guys very much! That's it.

PAM ALLEN: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. And Mrs. Maurer. Rookie Roundup would not be the same without you. So we're thrilled to be here together with you to celebrate our 2020 Convention. Thank you both for your continued love and leadership.

Now, I know that, you know, our next presenter has really been looking forward to this moment. We are virtually with our Texas affiliate as our host affiliate. And our Texas affiliate always prides themselves on being loud and proud! I think our next speaker would concur with that assessment. They're always a rowdy, lively bunch, which we love to hear, cheering and carrying on! So I know that our next presenter is going to share with us a great welcome from the great state of Texas, and also her thoughts about this incredible convention. So it's my pleasure to introduce Norma Crosby, president of the NFB of Texas and member of our board of directors.

SPEAKER: I'm having some difficulty finding president Crosby.

PAM ALLEN: Okay, flexibility is what it's all about!

MARK RICCOBONO: Have you voted, Pam?

PAM ALLEN: I voted. I took care of that right away. I know the votes are flying in, by the way. So I know that many of our Rookie Roundup -- our people are participating. And, so, we will go ahead, and while we're waiting for our next presenter, we'll have another door prize, which is always awesome, I think, another way to celebrate and be together. Congratulations again to Jeremy. Our next winner for our next door prize, and this winner, this lucky individual, also is going to receive a $30 Visa gift card. This person, if your phone -- if your area code is 775, and the last four digits of the lucky winner's phone number are... 8866. So, again, area code 775, and last four digits are 8866. If you could please e-mail [email protected] Again, that's [email protected] We'll connect you and work out the details for your prize.

NORMA CROSBY: Pam, I'm here, and I've been here all long!

(Laughter.)

 

PAM ALLEN: Hi, well, welcome! Now, without further ado, I'll turn it over to the fabulous Norma Crosby

NORMA CROSBY: I was trying really hard to be loud and proud, but Zoom wasn't allowing me!

(Laughter.)

 

PAM ALLEN: Well, you're tough, Norma, you showed Zoom who is boss.

NORMA CROSBY: I have to get this out of my system and say I miss you guys! I'm really excited about this convention, but it's definitely not the same. We were looking forward to all 10,000 of you here!

(Laughter.)

I'm sure it wouldn't have been 10,000 if we had actually been in person.

PAM ALLEN: With you in spirit, with you in spirit.

NORMA CROSBY: Absolutely. I just want to say that we are still proud to be the host committee in Texas. I've had a number of Texans helping to get some things together for you guys. We will have some surprises. I won't tell you -- I will tell you about a couple of those tonight. If you're a braille monitor reader, you might have noticed that I was bragging a few months ago about all these tours we were going to do in Texas. We were going to go to Galveston, to NASA, I can't remember all where we were going to go. But then COVID-19 came along and I dropped off the face of the braille monitor earth. And I didn't announce any more tours. Because at that time I had no idea if or how we could possibly do that. But you know, Federationists always find a way. And so we have been working with our friends at NASA. Very diligently. To try to see if we can still work something out with them, so that people could still have a virtual visit. And so we have been able to accomplish that. So I'm going to... look here... and tell you the times. If you have a desire to do a distance learning about NASA, we have a couple of opportunities for you to do that. Let me find my note about it. The first tour that we have is of Mission Control. It's with a blind NASA employee named Tracy Minish. It's going to be on the 15th of July beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Is the second is a tour of the history of spaceflight in NASA, July 16th at 11:00 a.m. these are all Eastern times I'm giving you. It's hard for me to do that, but we're doing everything in Eastern time this year, I hear. So those are the Eastern times. We're going to, not tonight, but soon, we'll send out at our nfbtx.org website, the information you need to get on those tours. If you're interested in visiting NASA, you're going to still get to do that, even though we couldn't be in Houston this year. I will be announcing a couple of other things during our board meeting, and during our opening ceremonies. The board meeting is on the 15th, opening ceremonies on the 16th. I hope you're there, first-timers. I neglected to say to you, this is my 39th consecutive convention. So I'm not a rookie anymore. But I'm looking forward to finding ways to meet all of you virtually. And we look forward to presenting the surprises that Texas has in store for you. And we're so happy that all of you, all 7,200 of you, have registered for the convention. I expect more, because people are still asking me if they can register in Texas. So we look forward to having all of you with us, and Pam, I think that's what I had this evening. But, again, I miss everyone. We'll collect all our hugs later, at the next convention where we will be in person. And let me say, please do keep your thoughts with us in Houston. We set another record today in Texas for COVID cases. And it does not seem we're expecting to be at Level 3 in our trauma and ICU centers by the 18th, they tell me. So we're still fighting the good fight, and hopefully it will be over soon. Thank you so much, Pam.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, Norma. We are definitely with you, we are definitely keeping you close in our hearts, and all of our Federation family around the country. I know that many people personally -- our Federation members, our friends, our family, those we love, our colleagues -- have all been impacted by COVID-19. And sadly, we have also lost people who are very close to us. So we are certainly reflecting upon that this evening, and at our convention. And Norma, we so appreciate your incredible leadership and the hard work of all of those incredible Texans that have been working so diligently to make us feel welcome virtually. We appreciate all the work that you put into it. And also the very creative tours! That's awesome. So I know lots of people will take advantage of that. So, thank you so much. We can't wait for those opening ceremonies and the surprises we know are to come. Because we know everything is bigger in Texas. So we're expecting a lot of good stuff! No pressure, Norma. Thank you so much. And our next presenter this evening that I'd like to introduce, also from the great state of Texas, Daniel Martinez chairs our Spanish translation activities at our convention. I'll turn it over to Daniel for his welcome.

DANIEL MARTINEZ: Hola familia, hello, my family. It's a pleasure to be with us guys in our first virtual Rookie Roundup. I remember my first convention, 2008, when I went to my first Rookie Roundup. And I say my first, because ever since, at every convention I've gone to, I've made a point to go to a Rookie Roundup. Because I love the energy that we feel in this event. Newcomers, welcome to the Federation. You're going to find a lot of friends, a lot of mentors, and you're going to learn quite a bit throughout our national convention.

My love of the Federation is immense. I'd like to extend our philosophy to the Spanish speakers in the Federation. I have the pleasure of chairing the translation committee. Throughout this convention, I have a wonderful team of interpreters that are going to be interpreting sessions all week. We usually interpret the board of directors meeting, the general session, and the banquet, and that's it. But now that we're doing it virtually, we're going the whole mile! And we're starting from tonight, because this Rookie Roundup is being interpreted. And we're continuing all the way until July 18th. At the close of our banquet. Thank you for your attention, and enjoy your first virtual convention.

PAM ALLEN: Excellent. Thank you so much, Daniel, and thanks to everyone who is helping with our Spanish translation. Bienvenidos. We're so happy everyone is here tonight.

Now, I know we have a lot of things happening, as part of the Rookie Roundup we have a lot of presentations. I'm very excited. I know we have with us many Jurnegen front runners. So I'm going to turn the microphone over now to our next presenter. Tracy Soforenko is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and also heads up our Jurnegen fund committee and does an exceptional job. Tracy has some exciting news and a great welcome for our first timers, particularly our Jernigan fund winners. Tracy?

TRACY SOFORENKO: Thank you, Pam. Good evening, and especially to our Jernigan Fund attendees. The Jernigan fund helps people attend their first convention. This is our first virtual convention. The fund has been adapting to adjust to this experience of a virtual convention. Like many of you, when I attended my first convention, my experience really was benefitted from local mentors who helped me from my local community understand how to navigate the convention and have that experience. And that's key to our success. They introduced me to people throughout the country. And we're trying to make that happen for so many people. The power of our movement is through the relationships we build, person to person. New this year, our Kenneth Jernigan committee, each individual on the committee, has been partnered with mentees, 42 of them, attending their first convention. These individuals are helping with mentoring, helping navigate the convention, and opening up their contacts to help people connect with blind people across the country and across the world. We know many more of you are first time convention attendees and might wish to tap that experience. Your affiliate is a great resource. And we will be doing affiliate caucuses on Friday, July 17th, mostly around 11:00 a.m. you should connect with your affiliate president and members of your affiliates to participate in that caucus and build relationships across the country. We know that many of our affiliate leaders love connecting with first time attendees, answering your questions. As Melissa stated, we are making it really explicitly clear: You are welcome at the presidential suite. You do not need to have business with the president to go to the presidential suite. We can't offer you coffee and donuts. What we can offer you is Federation leaders who want to help answer your questions, get you connected, and make it possible for you to have this. Take this as an invitation. I personally am working, the 14th, from 5:00 to 7:00. Don't let me be lonely. Come join me at the presidential suite. Come join the many individuals working in the suite. We'd love to answer your questions and help you tap the Federation network. We all have exciting stories from our first convention experience. 120 people chose to submit entries in our convention Memory Minute contest. They shared stories about their experience, and in just about a moment, Will is going to start sharing a video from one of our participants in that contest. Will, take it away!

(Video clip. )

SPEAKER: This is Oli of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. I still remember my first national convention way back in 1990. That was the year, on July 2nd, when I began using a cane for the very first time in my life! That was also the year when I began to see the importance of braille, ultimately becoming a braille reader myself. It was also then when I saw how exciting it was to go to training centers, later myself graduating from Louisiana Center for the Blind. That convention was also when I authored a resolution that became national policy, and it was the beginning of my involvement in the student division, later after becoming national president, meeting a young student from Wisconsin by the name of Mark Riccobono. I will forever credit the many things that have since happened to the transformational power that that first national convention had. When will be your transformational moment?

(End of video clip. )

TRACY SOFORENKO: This is where, in person, we'd all be cheering. In this video of Oli, there's a photo of a younger Oli and a younger Mark Riccobono, as well as pictures of braille, images of the Center for the Blind in Louisiana, as well as his three sons who are attending today and are members of the Virginia affiliate. Throughout the convention, we'll be sharing these videos and the exciting messages that comes from people's first convention experience. But even more, we will be at the banquet announcing our first, second, and third place winners of the Convention Memory Minute contest. We know the people who are in the Kenneth Jernigan program this year, along with other first time attendees, will want to be in person at the 2021 convention. We will have many more people applying for the 2021 Kenneth Jernigan scholarship. We also have programs across the country in response to COVID-19, whether it's in home learning, summer camp in home edition, other great programs, STEM programs. All of these things take financial resources to happen. Along with adapting our national center, the Jernigan Institute, to adjust for COVID-19. You can help us make that happen through our Give 2020 Campaign. And through that, you too may benefit. If you give $20 in our Give 20 Campaign, you will be eligible for the Kenneth Jernigan drawing, which will give you transportation for two to the convention, registration, banquet tickets. As my kids say, that's bank. So give to the Give 20 campaign, go to nfb.org, hit the donate button, and make sure to write in the note "NFB 20", and decide how you want to break down the donation, whether it's to the general fund, our Jernigan fund, our white cane fund, our tenBroek fund, or our rainy day fund. You can call our office at 410-659-9314, and press 4 to get to our giving line. Leave your message and we'll call you back tomorrow. Give your name, number, and time zone you're in, and we'll call you back tomorrow, and we'd love to take your donation. We're bringing the magic experience of convention to your home. Thank you so much, Pam. 

PAM ALLEN: Thank you. I loved seeing that video. Oli was there at my first convention in New Orleans, and we had the pleasure to be scholarship winners together. It's awesome to see that video. Thanks to everybody, Tracy, thanks for your hard work and the great hard work of your committee. We appreciate all of the people that have contributed and will contribute to the Give 20 campaign. Thank you so much.

Now, I have, in celebration, I have another door prize. Our lucky winner who will e-mail [email protected] is Angela Lopez from the great state of Texas. Angela Lopez, you are our lucky winner. You will also win a $30 gift card. Again, please e-mail [email protected] Now, I know that all of us -- as you have heard this evening, from all of our dedicated presenters, and I also want to express our appreciation to all of our affiliate presidents and all of our levels, staff at our national office for the incredible work that they've put in, and again, all of you that are here with us for the first time, our virtual convention would not be possible without the love and the patience and the flexibility and the creativity and the commitment to our organization and the belief that blindness will not stop us from living the lives that we want. So I really appreciate that. I know that those of that you are with us for the first time, you're feeling that power tonight. You're feeling that love. You're feeling that commitment. You're feeling that energy. And this is just a kickoff to what we'll be experiencing next week. And I want to introduce our next presenter, who has been a critical piece in working out all the logistics that will make the convention possible and all the things that seem so effortless on the outside, but there's a tremendous amount of hard work to making these things happen and run so smoothly. It's my pleasure to introduce for his remarks this evening, and to share his welcome for our first-timers, John Berggren, who is our director of operations, for his remarks. So, John.

JOHN BERGGREN: Good evening, everybody. Really glad to be here this evening with all of you. It's beginning to feel... really like convention. It's of course not the same as being in person. But I'm super excited about these registration numbers. If you think about the fact that we've more than doubled the number of folks we had in person last year in Las Vegas, that's a lot of first timers out there. And that's pretty awesome. So I do hope that I'll get a chance to meet some of you in person next year. But for this year, a couple points of interest. I want to -- the first thing I want to point out is that there is a whole lot of information to be found on our convention webpage at nfb.org/convention. That's the clearinghouse for everything related to convention. It will continue to be new details there, between now and convention. So I encourage you to continue to visit there.

I'd like to talk quickly about agendas. Some of you have already discovered that the html and Word versions are posted on the website. And a brf version will be posted tomorrow. There's still an epub and an ICS version still to come.

As Daniel mentioned earlier, there is a Spanish edition of the agenda. The agendas that are posted online right now contain the Zoom meeting links for all of the sessions. So you'll want to check those out.

Something I'd warn you to be very mindful of as you read through the agenda. All the times that are posted are Eastern Daylight Time. So please do adjust for your time zone so that you're not showing up three hours late for the session that you really wanted to participate in! So make those conversions as you plan out your week to participate in as many sessions as you can squeeze into your calendar. It's still just like our in-person convention. There's more to do than there is time in the day.

One particular note I want to call out as long as we've got a large group here. The agendas have been up for a few days. We do have a change in one of the events. The diversity and inclusion committee meeting was originally scheduled for Wednesday evening. It's now scheduled for Thursday morning at 10:30 Eastern time. The changes have been made to the agenda. But if you downloaded an early version, please keep in mind that that one session has changed. That's the diversity and inclusion meeting. It's now correct on our website. It will be Thursday morning at 10:30 Eastern. I also want to tell you about something that's kind of new and, well, it is new, and it's kind of exciting for this year. And that's our virtual event platform. As President Riccobono indicated, we did a lot of searching for an accessible platform. And we didn't find a perfect solution. But we believe what we have put in place is pretty good. This virtual event platform is going to have our agenda included. You can customize that to create a personal agenda. So you like the events you know you want to attend. Then you can view just your personal agenda. So all the other events fall away, and you see just what your next event is. There are links so that you can join Zoom meetings instantly from within the agenda. It is also the way that you'll be able to enjoy our virtual exhibit hall. You'll be able to directly connect with our sponsors and our exhibitors. There will be some of your long time favorites, as well as new faces in the exhibit hall crowd. And you also can create a profile, and network with other attendees. And send messages from within this platform. Those of you who registered online will receive instructions about accessing the platform in your inbox this Thursday morning. The same information is going to be available to everyone on our website on Thursday as well. So there's two places for you to go looking to figure out how to download the mobile app. Or the web portal. When you initiate a log in, at the start, you'll get a verification code via e-mail. And you can create your profile and begin talking to folks who have also joined the platform. So I think that's an exciting new opportunity for us to connect. It will -- it's not quite the same as chatting with friends after a meeting, grabbing a coffee at Starbucks. But it will make the convention everywhere and anywhere little bit smaller, a little bit more friendly and cozy. I'm excited for this to be rolled out. Look for that later this week. And as I say, continue to visit the convention webpage. There's going to be instructions about how best to -- how to download the Zoom app if you have a smartphone and haven't done so. How to take advantage of shortcuts, whether you're on a mobile device, on a desktop, calling in from a land line. Those shortcuts will be important to know in advance when you're participating in meetings. And there will be other helpful hints as well posted to the site. So continue to come back frequently. And check out what's new in advance of our convention. I'm excited to spend the coming week with you. And see this fantastically large crowd participating in all of our convention events! So, thanks, and enjoy our convention. It belongs to all of us. Let's make the best of it that we can. Thank you, Pam

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, John, and thanks again to the team for helping the logistics run so smoothly. We appreciate it. And those are some really exciting ways for us to stay connected and engaged. Thanks for sharing that information. As John said, things are constantly changing, we're constantly adding information, so be sure to visit nfb.org/convention, where all our up-to-the-minute information will be covered. Thanks to everyone, I know we've been through a lot this evening, and we have a lot of Qs and As answered. We still have a few more speakers and another door prize, this time for a $50 gift card. I just want to remind everybody, if you've not registered for the convention, you can still tune in and take part in the meetings and the sessions. Please remember that. That's important to remember. You won't be eligible for door prizes, for example, but we know that there are a lot of people who are finding out about the convention for the first time that haven't had a chance to register. We're thrilled that you're with us, that you'll be able to participate and take advantage of all the great opportunities that we have for next week that will be happening. A week from today we will be starting. So just, very quickly, I wanted to mention a few other things that I think will help our convention attendees, our first timers, particularly, experience the love and power and energy of the National Federation of the Blind. Our convention, as I mentioned, and as you've heard tonight from our presenters, begins on July 14th. Check out the agenda. Again, the agenda is available in a multitude of formats. Also we have a service called NFB Newsline, which we talked about briefly earlier tonight. That will also be a way for those of you who are NFB Newsline subscribers -- if you're not sure what that is, it's a way to access hundreds of newspapers and magazines and also to connect with the convention, the information that we discussed will be up there. Our NFB Newsline number is 866-504-7300. Again, that's 866-504-7300. That's on our website as well. And if you are interested in signing up for NFB Newsline or have questions, those of you who are already NFB Newsline subscribers, stay tuned for an e-mail later this week when the convention content is up on Newsline to take advantage of that. I know that we have thousands of people listening in tonight via our Zoom webinar and also via the other alternatives on YouTube and through our streaming. So again, we're so thrilled that all of you are here. Welcome again. As we are -- as we talked just briefly about our schedule, so you can start planning -- I know a lot of people have already started to plan for the week -- we remember that on Tuesday, July 14th, there are a variety of seminars that are happening that day, a lot of different concurrent sessions, our exhibit hall, all kinds of things happening on Tuesday to check out in the agenda. On Wednesday, July 15th, we will be having our national board of directors meeting that will be at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. All are welcome to that. That's our first large gathering of our convention. Everybody is welcome. Information on how to connect will be in the agenda, and will also be available to stream as well. We invite everybody to that. Our resolutions committee that you heard about earlier, that President Riccobono discussed, will happen at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday the 15thth. And so along with a host of other awesome opportunities, many, many different workshops for all types of interests, I want to also say a special welcome to our parents of blind children who are with us, and our blind kids that are with us, and teachers of blind students. We're really excited that all of you professionals working with blind people, we're really excited that all of you are here. There are many, many different opportunities throughout the convention week to network with other professionals, and parents and teachers. So thank you all for being here as well.

Speaking of kids, we have incredible activities planned for our youth track throughout the week. If you have questions about that, if you're a parent, teacher, or young person that wants to participate in youth track activities, check out the awesome virtual activities that are happening throughout the week as part of our convention.

On Thursday, we have many different things happening on Thursday. Again, the agenda is jam packed. As those of you who have read it have seen. So I'm not going to highlight all the different activities that are happening. But just a few things to note. On Thursday afternoon, many of our divisions are holding meetings. And in the National Federation of the Blind, remember, just a quick review for our first-timers, we're made up of 52 affiliates, for all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. We also have divisions that are centered around different interests, many of them professional interests, career interests. We have a variety of divisions that are happening. Many of those divisions hold their meetings and their workshops on -- will be holding them on Thursday afternoon. The great thing is you can hop around, just as if we were in person. You can hop around to different events. Same on-Zoom. You'll be able to virtually hop around and pop into different division meetings. So if you're interested in a specific career, if you want to find mentors, if you have questions about how blind people pursue different careers, all sorts of interests are covered there. Please check those out. If you're a lawyer, educator, someone who works in human services. Many, many different interests happen during our division. Many are happening on Thursday afternoon. I encourage you to check those out. There's a list of all of our divisions in the -- at the end of the agenda. And so please enjoy that. On Thursday evening at 6:30, we'll start with our opening ceremonies from 6:30 to 9:30 on Thursday evening. We'll be gathered together virtually, thousands of us that will join for our opening ceremonies. I know as Norma said, they have great things planned from the state of Texas. We'll also do our roll call of states. That's one of my favorite points of convention, when President Riccobono gavels in to start our 2020 convention officially. You do not want to be late for our opening ceremonies that are happening that evening.

On Friday, John talked about, and many people have mentioned our state caucuses. Tracy also mentioned it. Our caucuses are happening Friday morning. The times may slightly vary. But they will begin between 11:00 a.m.  Eastern, and 1:00. A caucus is a chance for us to get together by state. If you're a first timer and interested in connecting with people in your state, this is a great way to do it. At the site, nfb.org/convention, there's a link that gives the contact information for all 52 affiliates and the state president information, so you can reach out to them directly to get information about the state caucus. That's a great way to connect and meet other people from your state. I encourage everybody to participate in those caucuses. Again, the key is to reach out to the president of the affiliate of the state in which you're residing, and they'll share that information. Feel free to do that this week so you can get the information, and so your state can get to know you, and if you have questions about convention, the state president and member of the affiliate will be happy to welcome you and help with that as well.

Following our caucuses on Friday, we have an incredible agenda planned. President Riccobono talked about the president's report and the appearance by Speaker Pelosi. We start the general session promptly at 1:30, and we'll have a break and then meet again starting promptly at 6:00 p.m. We'll have presentations, personal stories about blind people in all sorts of careers, and it can be life changing. I remember my first convention how incredibly impressed and inspired and amazed I was by the fact to know what was possible. I know sometimes blindness, we aren't sure, we may hear mixed signals from those around us or in society at large about the expectations of blind people. But I can assure you in the National Federation of the Blind that we know that blindness is just a characteristic, and it doesn't stop us from accomplishing our dreams. So you will definitely be motivated by the speakers that are presenting throughout our convention, at our breakout sessions, at our divisions and the strong leadership that we have at all levels on our general session panel. So please check out all those amazing speakers.

On Saturday, we will -- which will be the final day of our convention -- our convention general session that day will start at 1:00. We'll cover business, our elections, and our resolutions, and discuss and vote on resolutions. We'll have a short break, and then we'll have another session from 4:30 to 6:30. Then we'll have a break. Then the banquet, the highlight of the convention where President Riccobono will deliver his banquet address, will begin on 7:30 Saturday evening. You don't want to miss that. That's just a very quick rundown about the schedule for the week. Again, a much more detailed schedule is found online at nfb.org/convention. As part of our convention, we are also working diligently to make everybody feel welcome. I know some of us have been on a lot of Zoom calls, some of us, this is a new platform. Maybe some of you are listening on streaming. There will be a lot of different ways to access the convention. You can dial in with a telephone. You can use the Zoom app or a desktop version. You can stream the conference. Many of the breakout sessions and division meetings will be held in the Zoom meeting platform. I just want to say really quickly, when we are -- the general sessions, the banquet and the board meeting, will be in the webinar format like we'll be using this evening. So if you're using Zoom, particularly when we're in smaller group meetings, like the division meetings and some of our concurrent breakouts, please remember to mute yourselves and to remember that on Zoom, you know, background noise is magnified. I think by 10 million times, sometimes, it seems. So we're all going to work together to make our conference as welcoming... there are some great shortcuts, as John mentioned, about Zoom. If you need help learning how to use Zoom or you have questions about it, that's another great time to reach out to our affiliates. We have many members around the country who are experts and who would love to give tutorials and practice. So if you have questions about accessing that, please reach out to us. I want to also share right now an e-mail for everybody. If you have questions that come up between now and the convention or need extra information, our e-mail address to reach out to is [email protected] That is a great resource for information and a way to help connect with state presidents or answer other questions that you might have. So please feel free to reach out and to use that. We are happy to help make this convention -- we know it's your first, but we know it definitely will not be your last. We're also working hard in our organization as a whole and at our convention specifically to provide a harassment-free environment for everyone. So I want to thank everyone in advance for cultivating an atmosphere in which everyone from diverse backgrounds can learn, share, and grow with each other. We respect each other, and we're committed to diversity, equity, and free expression of ideas. These are outlined in our code of conduct, found on our website at nfb.org. We all recognize a shared responsibility to create and uphold this atmosphere for the benefit of all. So we appreciate in advance everybody working together to be respectful. And to maintain and environment that is supportive and welcoming. If there are any questions about that, you can contact -- or problems you would like to discuss -- you can reach out to our national office at 410-659-9314, or e-mail [email protected] There's also a formal reporting process on nfb.org. I appreciate all of us doing our part to make the community welcoming and safe for all and for continuing to honor the high expectations that we strive and maintain. I appreciate all of us working together to maintain that environment.

I know that we have a lot to do, you know, at our convention, when we're in person. We always say, you know, don't plan to get a lot of sleep at convention because there's so many different activities and meetings to attend and people to meet. I anticipate that our virtual convention will be exactly the same. So rest up now, because we have a full week ahead. And I just, I want to say that as you can see from this evening, we have covered a great deal of information. We're going to be concluding here shortly, we just have a couple quick things that we're going to do before we end and before we draw our door prize. I appreciate all of you being here this evening. And this is our kickoff to our convention. And so we are thrilled that you have joined us tonight and you will be with us next week to celebrate, to share, to plan for our future together.

And so, one of the divisions that I talked about a little bit earlier, our divisions. And one of our very committed and active and engaged divisions is our National Association of Blind Students. The National Association of Blind Students has several different meetings throughout the week. So if you're a high school student or middle school, high school, college, graduate school, please check out the agenda. There are awesome things planned. The National Association of Blind Students put together a short clip that we're about to play, about reasons for attending convention. So we're going to listen to that, and I thank the students who worked so diligently on putting this together. I know you'll hear the students next week at the virtual convention. Here's the clip.

(Audio clip)

SPEAKER: Here are some reasons you should definitely attend the 2020 National Federation of the Blind virtual national convention.

SPEAKER: Number 1. Convention is for free!

SPEAKER: Number 2. Enjoy convention from the comfort of your own bed while rocking your favorite PJs.

SPEAKER: Number 3. Have any food you would like at banquet!

SPEAKER: Number 4. You will receive excellent and quick service at the exhibit hall

SPEAKER: Number 5. You have the opportunity to become aware of so many resources available to you in both your personal and professional lives.

SPEAKER: Number 6. There's no line to get coffee in the morning before a general session or important meeting.

SPEAKER: Number 7. No more marshalling. You don't have to listen to people screaming in your face when walking from event to event!

SPEAKER: Number 8. We can't wait to see you!

SPEAKER: We can't wait to see you at this year's convention!

(End of clip.)

PAM ALLEN: Thank you to the students for the love and energy you bring to the organization, and thanks for putting that together. I know we're still gathering votes, and President Riccobono will make an announcement about that before we conclude this evening. But before we do that, I have two presenters who are briefly going to share with us what their first convention was and the power of the National Federation of the Blind. I would first like to introduce from our Virginia affiliate, Dominique Lawless

DOMINIQUE LAWLESS: Thank you. Hello, President Riccobono, Federation family, and especially first-time convention attendees. I joined the National Federation of the Blind in 2000 at a student seminar at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. After that, I faithfully read the braille monitor and looked forward to the spring editions especially, where I would get all the scoop about national convention. But it seemed like year after year after year, I wasn't ever able to attend. Until 2004 when I won a national scholarship to go to national convention in Atlanta, Georgia. That was just a fantastic experience. Especially after wanting and wishing to attend, and not having that opportunity. And having made a lot of friends that I stayed in touch with at that student seminar. Joining the National Federation of the Blind was something that changed my life forever, because I had gone from not knowing a lot of other successful blind people, to, you know, making friends and meeting people who would become mentors in my life forever. When I attended national convention, I wasn't quite sure what I would be expecting, because people that I had met told me, oh, it would be a life-changing experience. But they didn't really go into detail about what a life-changing experience could be like. I remember kind of getting there a day early or an afternoon early, and feeling a little alone because there was no one there. But the people that I met were really wonderful! You know, I remember having lunch with two people from Arizona, one of whom was a veteran, and they kind of sat me down and talked to me about the ins and outs of convention. And what I could expect. And after that. I had the opportunity to sit through general sessions and to go to special interest groups and division meetings. And the whole week as a whirlwind of talking to people and getting advice from mentors and making new friends and signing up for the blindness educators meeting. It was just a whirlwind of activity. And after that, I tried never to miss a convention.

The one thing that I would say is, you know, I was listening to Melissa Riccobono's words and Dr. Maurer's words. They both really meant a lot to me. Because like Melissa, I am missing my Federation family in person. Every year that I go to convention, it's like -- it is so empowering to be around my Federation family. From listening to the sound of canes around me and feeling like I'm at home, to knowing that I'm with like-minded people. And knowing that we're each kind of taking turns being in that leadership environment. Where, you know, I can ask a friend, hey, will you get started on this? Or someone else in a leadership position will say, you know, Dominique, I want you to take this project on. And knowing that they have every faith in my ability to do something, because I have the capacity to do it. It has nothing to do with my blindness. So being at the National Federation of the Blind national convention really gives me an opportunity to feel like I am helping make change for the blind community. As well as, you know, me giving, just me being part of the community as a whole. But what I like about us going virtual this year is that I had to wait for years to go to a national convention, and this year gives someone the opportunity who might be waitingor might not know what national convention is about. So it gives people an opportunity to attend for free. And maybe this might be their first, and like Pam said, not their last. So I'm really excited that you guys get to attend this year, and I hope that this is by no means your last convention. You know, if you have any questions, I hope that you see me on our participant platform and say hi. I'll be happy to answer any of your convention questions. This is my 20th year in the National Federation of the Blind, and my 14th convention, and I'm looking forward to you guys attending for as long as you possibly can. Have a great day, guys.

PAM ALLEN: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dominique. We appreciate your remarks. I know people look forward to connecting with you. And thank you for all the contributions that you make.

Our next presenter this evening is our senior board member, past president of the NFB of California. I would like to now turn it over for her remarks and her welcome for our first-timers, our mentor and great friend, Ever Lee Hairston.

EVER LEE HAIRSTON: Good evening! I'm so excited about being here again. Actually this is my 34th convention. And it seems just like yesterday that I attended my first. Wow! I can't believe it. 34 consecutive years. But some of you may be feeling just what I felt on my very first convention. I felt like the world was holding me back. I was afraid to attend the convention, but finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do. When I think about that, I think about the story of the young man who was walking through an elephant camp. As he was going through this camp, he spotted that the elephants were not kept in a cage, and they were not chained! All they were being held down with was a small rope tied around one of their feet. But you know what? The elephants would never escape the camp. Now, you know they were able to. They could probably break that rope. But they didn't do it. They didn't believe that they could. Because at the early age of those elephants, you know, when they were very young and very small, what was happening? The same size of rope that was given to them as they grew up was the one that they used. And when they were tied down as a young elephant with this rope, it would hold them. But as they grew up, they were so conditioned. So they didn't believe that they could escape. And they didn't, from the camp.

I wonder often why they did not escape from the camp. Because they could. But it is because, over time, they adopted the belief that they couldn't do it. That it was impossible! That's what was going on with me. Prior to attending my first convention. I felt like I could not accomplish the things that I wanted to. It seems as if the world was just putting me in a position, trying to hold me back. But after attending my first convention, let me tell you. That whole world opened up for me. I became a leader in the Federation. Worked as a president of a chapter in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. First vice president of the NFB of New Jersey. Served on the scholarship committee for 20-something years. Became a member of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Served in Michigan for a while. And now, serving on the national board of directors. You see, the world was trying to hold me back. But I just needed to believe that I could do the things that I wanted to do. I just had to believe it. And it wasn't until I attended my first convention that I learned, with all of the resources and all of the love and the hope and the determination that I received at that convention, that I could do it. Now I share with you: I am filled with hope and energy and love by participating in the National Federation of the Blind. My contributions make a difference to me and to others. And I can celebrate the realization of my dreams with my Federation family. I love you. And God bless you. Continue to come back! As long as Dr. Maurer has: 50 years. As long as Ever Lee Hairston has: 34 years. Take care and enjoy this wonderful virtual convention. Thank you.

PAM ALLEN: Thank you so much, Ever Lee. And we can't wait for our first-timers to add their stories and first time convention experiences. Thank you both so much for sharing your experiences, for the motivation. And I know that all of you will have a chance to connect with Ever Lee and Dominique and all of us to share in the Federation family. Now, as we're concluding tonight, I have this door prize that I'll pull up here in a moment. But I want to give President Riccobono the chance for any closing remarks that he might have for our first-timers

MARK RICCOBONO: Thanks, Pam. I was just reflecting, this is my 25th national convention. So I'm, you know, catching up! I'm catching up. This has been a really great event. There is a lot to take in. Even as this being my 25th convention, there's a lot of new stuff to catch up on. Really quickly, voting is new, different for us. But everybody was able to vote tonight. Not everybody took the opportunity to vote. And I know a lot of people, we only gave the question one time, so during the convention, it will be a little slower paced than this evening. But we did have 722 people vote. So less than half the crowd here tonight. But we had 263 yes votes -- that means genuine first-timers. And 459 no votes. So a lot of people didn't vote. Probably a lot of our true first-timers didn't, because they've been listening intently to all of the information you've been giving, Pam. I'm really excited about what we're doing. About all the things that are going to happen next week. I'm going to be getting my schedule together in the next couple days, and trying to get some sleep. But it's going to be hard to sleep with all the excitement around convention. I miss everybody as well. I miss being in person. But I know that the spirit of the Federation and the feeling that we get from being together will be present with us next week. So thank you. And let's go build the Federation!

PAM ALLEN: Thank you, President Riccobono. I know that we'll all be counting down until we'll be together again for our convention festivities. Again, we begin our first day, July 14th, just a week from today. You've heard tonight how we don't let things stop us. We continue to be flexible. And we continue to break down barriers. And we are setting records. I'm confident this is going to be the largest gathering of blind people. In the National Federation of the Blind. That wouldn't be possible out everyone here tonight. So thank you again so much for being part of it. We want to make this convention a positive experience for everybody. So please feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or if there's anything we can do to help make this convention our best ever.

Our door prize, by the way, our winner for the door prize this evening $50, a dollar gift card, will go to Paula Kelsey from Virginia. Paula, if you would e-mail [email protected] Now, remember, when you win a door prize, people usually scream and cheer. So we imagine people screaming and yelling as they win. I appreciate everybody being a part tonight. This is just a small taste of what's going to happen next week. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your interest in learning about the National Federation of the Blind. The work we do together wouldn't be possible without your hope, without your ideas, without your commitment, without your energy, and without your determination to help blind people realize, and for all of us to live the lives that we want. That that our blindness will not hold us back. Thank you again, welcome, and let's build the National Federation of the Blind. See you next week!

(Sound of cheering and applause)

(Piano ballad playing)

Lyrics: Live the life that you've always wanted to. Shoot for the sun and break on through. So you're blind, you’ll be fine, we've got good news. You can live the life you want, yes we know the truth. Grab a cane, get trained. Get on moving. Make a change and a wage, that's what we're doing. Come with me, yeah! Live the life you want. Nobody can stop you. Shoot for the sun, and break on through. So you're blind, you'll be fine, we've got good news. You can live the life you want, yes, we know the truth. You and me, NFB, let's be together. NFB, you and me, lives on forever. You will see... you can live the life you want, nobody can stop you. Shoot for the sun, and break on through. So you're blind, you'll be fine, we've got good news! You can live the life you want, yes we know the truth.

You can live the life you want, yes we know the truth...

(piano and harmonica playing) You know the truth...

(End of song).