Welcoming Ceremonies: From Houston to Everywhere

>> PRESIDENT RICCOBONO:  The 2020 convention of the National Federation of the Blind is now in order!  Welcome!  Federationist friends family to our largest convention and he have it seems we would start our opening with a door prize or five, maybe!  Hopefully we got Bennett and Diane out there to give us some door prizes. 

>> BEN:  Mr. President we have lots of door prizes. 

>> PRESIDENT RICCOBONO:  I hear Diane out there. 

>> DIANE:  Am I unmuted now?  Here I are, okay.  Ben is going to

start this out with five prizes and five names. 

>> BEN:  That's right we have groups of five this year and people that are listening to us can raise their hand in Zoom and if they are not in Zoom they can send an email or text to [email protected], put their name in there and add the unique code word or phrase we have for each of the groups. .  The first group has the code word of accessibility.  So the first and last name and the message of prize to nfb.org.  First is Elana Leonardi, California, another $50 gift card, Eliza Portugal, California, the third is Frank Ekinomo, Arizona and the next one is Libby Mulner from Colorado.  Those are the five and the accessibility is the code word you want to use.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

>> PRESIDENT RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Bennett, Diane, good to hear you.  Raise your hand in Zoom or go ahead and send an email with "accessibility" as the code word and we will go from there!  All right, to begin this evening, I had to think about this, I'm used to it being afternoon.  To begin this evening we are going to start with an invocation and the gentleman to give our invocation this evening is a proud graduate from the Louisiana Center for the Blind.  He has recently left his home in Texas after graduating from UT Austin to return to his home.

>> JEANNIE MASSAY:  As a J D candidate at Harvard law school.  Three weeks ago he got married to the girl of his dreams, the occurrence of which he attributes to the confidence, independence and multi pass etted success he gained from the federation's support.  Syed's passions are not only focused -- are not only focused on up lifting blind students but also assisting his Muslim community.  Ultimately, I love that, ultimately he feels most passionate about advocating for the intersectionality of these two identities.  And this is the important part, and is an active maverick for disabled Muslims.  It's a pleasure to welcome to our stage this evening, Syed Rizvi. 

>> SYED RIZVI:  Peace be upon you, my Federation family.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you all in starting this general session with a short prayer.  I will begin by reciting in Arabic the first chapter of the Quran.  Then we will do a short prayer. 

(Reciting the Quran.)

I begin in the name of God, the benefit of the merciful, all praise belongs to the world the benefit and the merciful.  It is only you that we worship and ask for guidance from.  Guide us on the right path, the path for whom you have restored your bounty upon, not upon the path of those who have gone astray and earned your displeasure.  Though we thank you for guiding us all toward the path of the National Federation of the Blind as we know that is the path that is full of bounties and we pray that whoever has not found the National Federation of the Blind we beseech you to bring them toward this path of love, of compassion, and of hope. 

Thank you.  Amen. 

>> PRESIDENT RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Syed and congratulations on your marriage.  We look forward to your continued leaved ship in the Federation as a Maverick.  I love that.  Thank you.  We are now going to go to our opening ceremonies

to welcome us to this grand convention. 

this woman told us a year ago when we announced we would have a convention this year it would be our biggest ever because, of course, we were going to Texas and maybe even she didn't know how big Texas was going to be this year so here to welcome us to our 2020 convention is the President of the natural fed of Texas a member of the Board of Directors, Norma Crosby. 

>> SPEAKER:  Ever day we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.  You can live the life you want, blindness will not hold you back. 



>> -- the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas! 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  Thank you so much President Riccobono.  We're so happy to be here this evening.  Before we start our presentation, I want to take just a moment to talk to you about the evils of betting.  Especially when you lose.  Last fall I made a friendly wager with my good friend Shawn Callaway.  I bet that our Houston Astros would destroy the Washington Nationals in the World Series.  Continue didn't quite work out that way so tonight I'm paying off my bet.  I promised that I would wear a Nationals shirt at the opening ceremony of this convention if the Nats won.  Texans always pay their Betts so Shawn everyone can see that I am indeed wearing this lovely Nationals shirt!  That's enough of that humiliation!  So I guess I will also be paying off another bet, soon, because I bet Ronza Othman that Texas would register more people than Maryland at this convention and that didn't work out so well for me, either, so Ronza you can expect that Texas care package coming your way, soon. 

Last summer when President Riccobono gave me a couple of minutes to announce that our 80th anniversary convention would be held in Houston the crowd went wild and I was so proud that everyone wanted to come to the city that I consider my hometown.  Unfortunately for us the Coronavirus had other plans for this year.  But the Federation has never let a little thing like the pandemic stop us from celebrate are our history and our future.  So this evening I'm here to represent Texas.  Even though the convention is anywhere and everywhere, it's definitely still a Texas thing.  So as you might expect, this opening is going to include a lot about Texas.  And we Texans always have plenty to say about our great state.  I will admit when President Riccobono told me I had 30 minutes I was intimidated and I knew I needed help.  So tonight I will be enlisting a crew of people to welcome you to the best convention ever!  I also want to thank the crew that helped me to get this event ready.  The planning committee consisted of Kimberly, Jose and Raul and Stacy, thank you so much, y'all.  We could not have put this program together without their help.  Our first crew member tonight is Sylvester Turner.  He oversees our great city and even though we couldn't hold this in person he wanted to welcome us to Houston just the same. 

(Music Playing.)

>> SPEAKER:  I was born in Louisiana, down on the old baiyo, raised on shrimp and cat fish, and good gumbo, I got the fever said goodbye to ma and PA, crossed that old Red River and this is what I saw. 

>> SPEAKER:  Hello, I'm Sylvester Turner, mayor of the city of Houston the fourth largest and most diverse city in America.  I'm sorry that I could not welcome you in person with the world class hospitality Houston is known for.  On behalf of the entire city, we were looking forward to hosting you for the 80th national convention of the National Federation of the Blind.  But now, we are looking forward to showing off the best of Houston when you visit in July 2023.  There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives.  I applaud the resilience, innovation and flexibility you are demonstrating this week.  Moving your week-long program to a fully accessible virtual experience speaks to your determination and grit.  Houstonians also know about resilience, innovation and grit after the tremendous impact of hurricane Harvey in 2017, we came together to rebuild better, stronger and more resilient than ever before.  Incredible partners like the National Federation of the Blind of Texas were a critical crew in providing direct services and recovery resources to blind Houstonians.  I want to commend your national president, Mark Riccobono and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, Norma Crosby.  In Houston we understand that to be the most diverse city in America, everyone needs a seat at the table.  As a former state representative I worked to support and advance legislation that would increase the independence of Texans with disabilities and now, as the 62nd mayor of the city of Houston I have elevated the mayor's office for people with disabilities to be part of my executive staff.  I have empowered the office with the resources and executive support to make our city the most accessible in the country.  In fact, after our former mayor's office people with disabilities MariaTown was selected to represent the people with disabilities in Washington, D.C., the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute was kind enough to return Gabe Casserus to Houston to pick up where Maria left off.  I am glad to have Gabe on my team leading people with disabilities and demanding accessibility in everything we do.  I can't leave you without acknowledging that this year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush signing the A D A into law July 26th, 1990.  This was a monumental step forward for equity and inclusion but 30 years later people with disabilities are still facing too many barriers to every aspect of American life, including employment, housing, healthcare and education.  As we remember and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the A D A, let's recommit ourselves to remove these barriers so together we can transform your dreams into reality.  By doing so, we will be able to recognize that low expectations not disabilities create obstacles between blind people and their dreams.  You can live the life you want, blindness is not what holds you back.  I hope you have a wonderful 2020 national convention and I look forward to welcoming you in person in Houston in 2023.  Ly.

>> NORMA CROSBY:  Thanks mayor turner we appreciate you taking the time to welcome us while you are so busy trying to keep our city safe.  Our second crew member is Kimberly.  Many of you know her as a dynamic leader in the federation but did you know she recently completed her PhD.  Well, she did and we couldn't be prouder of here.  So welcome, Dr. Aguilard. 

(Music Playing.)

>> SPEAKER:  She loves the company of her family!  She has faith in God's greater plan.  She trusts I'm a good man and that's why I'll always believe.  She's like Texas and she likes me. 

>> SPEAKER:  Thanks Norma, bless your heart.  I'm glad we get a few minutes to kickoff that convention and I would like to set the record straight about Texas.  There are so many wild stereo types floating around, for example, people say we talk a lot about Texas, like we brag all the time about how big it is, how we have the best live music, how we strut around wearing cowboy boots and staying "don't mess with Texas" I don't know where people get this stuff, it's not true. 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  Kimberly, it is true, we're doing it right now and we're probably going to do it throughout this ceremony. 

>> SPEAKER:  I guess that wasn't good example.  What about that obsession that we are obsessed with football? 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  True again. 

>> SPEAKER:  Well, okay, we do have the largest high school football stadium in the country and no respectable Texan gets married on a Saturday during football season.  But what about how everyone thinks we ride horses around downtown Houston. 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  We don't do that every day.

>> SPEAKER:  Exactly.

>> NORMA CROSBY:  We only do that during rodeo Houston and during parades and of course the police do that all the time.

>> SPEAKER:  True again.  Okay, what about those assumptions that we're not cultured?  That's just absurd. 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  Of course it is, we're all here and we have food recommendations consisting of four good groups for optimal health and happiness, BBQ, Colaches, tacos and beer.  We don't have a taco trunk on every corner but that would be the height of sophistication. 

>> SPEAKER:  We have pretty much blown those stereotypes out of the water but people don't give us enough credit. 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  What did you have in mind? 

>> SPEAKER:  Did you know that Houston is the most diverse city in the country and over 145 language are spoken here.

>> NORMA CROSBY:  I did, hey, did you know that we have a huge PRI D E parade every year that attracts almost three-quarters of a million people? 

>> SPEAKER:  Of course, love is love y'all.  And I work at the largest medical center in the world, with 7.2 million people from around the globe visiting each year for state of the art health care.

>> NORMA CROSBY:  Yep, everything is bigger in Texas.  I don't work at rodeo Houston but it includes concerts with major stars like Beyonce, yep, she has definitely been to rodeo Houston.  When 3,000 trail riders come from all over the state and Louisiana you will find cowboys from all ethnic backgrounds.  A lot of the rides include families and they often ride in on our major highways and take over one of the largest parks in the city before they strut their stuff in a huge parade that kicks off the rodeo.  You would think people would have road rage because they do tend to slow down traffic when they come but we're all used to it, we sit back, turn up the King, George Strait, and enjoy!  The rodeo is part of our proud culture and show cases our friendliness and diversity. 

>> SPEAKER:  Right, and rodeo Houston is a great example of Texas being all the things people assume we are and still something different and special that many may not understand.  It's true we do say howdy and even our had had hers have cowboy boots but we also represent what our city is all about.  We employ diverse talent, kids of all ages and backgrounds get to participate, even though it's loud and boisterous and less than settled like the rest of Houston.  The rodeo raises more than $27 million in college scholarships. 

>> NORMA CROSBY:  That's our town, there is always more than meets the eye.

>> SPEAKER:  More than you can shake a stick at.  In fact our other crew members have more to say about this, hoe Jay is a leader in our affiliate and Adriana will introduce you to the culture we all love.  You can take Texas out of Mexico but I'm pretty sure you will never take Mexico out of Texas now excuse me y'all, I gotta track down a taco truck. 

(Music Playing.)

(Spanish music playing.)

>> SPEAKER:  Welcome to Texas!  My name is Jose Marquez, I am the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, I amming first-generation Mexican American.  There are many of us here in Texas.  My parents immigrated to the United States in the late 70s and formed a nice Mexican family.  My father worked in construction most of his life and my mom has worked in the fast food industry specifically what-a-Burger, you locals you know what I'm talking about, if you're an out-of-towner you gotta try it out.  They came to America to chase the dream with nothing on their backs.  They always instilled in us the value of a good education and hard work and determination.  Thanks to all of that, I was the first one in my family to graduate from Texas A&M University, go Aggies, I know there are probably a few Longhorns cringing right now!  I was lucky enough to enjoy both roads.  For example, Fajitas and chicken fried steak, tortillas and corn bread, tack cos and hot dogs and spicy lasagne.  Made my my mother.  When I tried it I said mom, it's not supposed to be spicy and she said in my home it is and one thing you should know is you don't argue with a Mexican mom.  I learned Spanish at home from my parents and English at school and I picked up English thanks to Sesame Street and Barney and Friends on PBS.  My father on the weekends or sometimes during the week would take us to the Houston Astros baseball games and afterwards or the next day he would take us to a Mexican rodeo.  So for many years we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, my mom didn't know how to prepare a typical Thanksgiving meal but over the years all of us learned how to prepare one so now we do partake in a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the, you know, fixings and the Mexican side dishes and Cizam.  Texas and Mexican culture are intertwined here.  We blend in with each other.  We are like a big salad bowl or a taco salad bowl.  I'm making myself hungry now.  There is one thing about Texans and Mexicans, it's that we enjoy our music and Mariaci is the soul of Mexican music and Texas has embraced it, if you heard it on a Saturday morning it meant it was time to get up and clean.  But as far as that, Mariachi music is something that I enjoy, I think you will enjoy and I'm going to let Adrianna Mendez, one of our mentees talk to you more about it. 

>> SPEAKER:  Hello friends and fellow federationists, Mariachi does play a huge role in our culture here, like Jose my family immigrated here to the United States in 1999 and I grew up as a Mexican American.  Now, being raised in a Mexican family I was always listening to Mariachi music, you name it, all of the artists.  Typically when people think of this music they think of a guy on a horse wearing a hat, but that doesn't necessarily apply to this circumstance.  Mariachi does have a deeper origin than you would have thought.  It began as the music combined between the Mexican Indians, the Spanish and even African culture.  So the music began around the early 1800s and the typical instruments were the guitar, the base, and violin.  In 1927 trumpets were added and so was a harp.  I am proud to say that I am one of the people who plays in my local high school Mariachi group.  Mariachi plays such a big role in Texas that now even high schools and middle schools have implemented it into its country could you lull.  My high school has won two competitions.  We got state for the Texas Association of Mariachi he Education and for UIL the University Interscholastic League.  Now that we have spoken a lot about this music and its origin, let us show you all what our music is about.  (Mariachi music playing.) (Mariachi music playing.)


(Mariachi music playing.) (Mariachi music playing.) (Mariachi music playing.)


(Mariachi music is playing.)


>> NORMA CROSBY:  Texas is strong and resilient just like the National Federation of the Blind.  Both our state and our affiliate exemplify everything that makes us resilient.  In 2023 we will makeup for lost time!  In the meantime we will lean on each other for strength as we move forward.  Houston is known for many things, rodeos, the world's largest medical center, being diverse, and being home to the best chicken fried steak on the planet.  But we're also known as "space city" so here to make sure you get an out-of-this-world welcome to our national convention is former astronaut Anna Fisher the first mom in space.

>> SPEAKER:  Greetings to the National Federation of the Blind.  I am astronaut Dr. Anna fisher.  I have an undergraduate degree in chemistry and went on to specialize in emergency medicine.  I was privileged to be in the first group of six women selected for the U.S. space program in 1978 and then to become the first mother to fly in space in November of 1984 on the first mission ever to bring back hardware from space.  Two communication satellites who's rocket engines that were supposed to take them to a higher orbit failed.  I later served as chief of the space station branch at the very beginning of the international space station program as we learned to work together with our international partners to build this magnificent laboratory.  Every day for the last 20 years, astronauts and cosomonauts have continuously worked on the international space station doing vital research that directly benefits all of humanity.  You and the federation are also involved by helping blind people and there by contributing to the progress of everyone.  We travel in space to push the boundaries of human kind.  You travel on earth to expand the boundaries of blind people and to fight the low expectations that hold you and all of us back.  Together we seek technological innovations to change the world.  Our goal is to venture to other planets.  Your short-term goal is to develop vehicles that will let you independently travel the he streets and highways of our beloved planet earth.  You replace barriers with broadened opportunity.  Your emphasis on literacy, on helping the blind enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and math means that one day soon you will be addressing a future convention from space.  Or maybe even from another body in the universe we share.  Because of your work, you will be a part of exploring the new frontier of space, a frontier that is more vast that any humans have ventured to explore.  With your work you will not only raise the expectations for blind people but the expectations for all of us.  As we replace ignorance with knowledge and limitations with opportunity.  Challenge is what use nights us and the determination to meet that challenge is what moves us forward.  On behalf of NASA I am glad to participate in opening the largest meeting of the blind in the world.  I am sorry that we could not come together in Houston due to the COVID pandemic restrictions on large social gatherings, but I'm pleased to join you online.  Though I cannot be physically with you and you cannot physically be with one another, we know what ties us together to make the world better for all mankind.  Today and in the days to come we pledge to give you our best.  We know from your history and your commitment over the past 80 years that we will get nothing less than your best as well. 

Thank you, congratulations on your anniversary, and may this be your most successful gathering ever. 

(Music Playing.)

(Lean on me.)

>> SPEAKER:  Sometimes in my life, we all have pain, we all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there is always tomorrow.  Lean on me when you're not strong and I will be your friend.  I'll help you carry on.  For it won't be long, until I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.  Please swallow your pride.  If I have pain you need to borrow.  For no one can feel both of your needs that you won't let show.  You just call on my burglary, when you need a hand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  I just might have a problem, that you'll understand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  Lean on me.  When you're not strong, and I'll be your friend.  I'll help you carry on.  For, it won't be long, until I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.  You just call on my brother, when you need a hand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  I just might have a problem that you'll understand.  We all need somebody to lean on.  If there is a load you have to bear, that you can't carry, I'm right up the road, I'll share your load, if you just call me.  Call me.  If you need a friend.  Call me, call me.  Call me.  If you need a friend.  Call me.  If you ever need a friend.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  If you need a friend.  Call me.  Call on me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.