The Braille Monitor                                                                              August/September 2005

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The Edge of Tomorrow
Marc Maurer
at the Banquet of the Annual Convention
of the National Federation of the Blind
Louisville, Kentucky
July 7, 2005

 Marc Maurer delivers the 2005 banquet address.

In art perspective is the depiction of objects with proper alignment, clarity of detail, and depth. In thought perspective is the contemplation of ideas from a vantage point that allows maximum understanding, clarity of detail, and depth. Although perspective was once the science of sight (sometimes known as optics), it has come to mean in part the capacity to understand--to penetrate the complex and to illuminate the obscure.

For an illustration of perspective consider the earth and the billiard ball. The earth, we are told, is round. However, it is covered with oceans, mountains, cliffs, and valleys; our observation tells us that it is only more or less round.

A billiard ball is round; when we hold it, we know this is true. The observation is borne out by the Billiard Congress of America, which tells us that the billiard ball is completely round. However, the standards for manufacture of billiard balls permit a deviation in the diameter of the ball. The diameter is two and one-quarter inches, and the permitted deviation is plus or minus five thousandths of an inch. Therefore the deviation is one out of 225.

The highest point on the earth is just short of six miles above sea level. If, in considering the roundness of the earth the land mass is examined and the oceans are ignored (a thing very difficult to do because more than two-thirds of the globe is covered with water), the lowest point of land is just short of seven miles below sea level. The diameter is approximately eight thousand miles. Therefore the deviation in the diameter of the land mass of the earth is thirteen eight-thousandths or approximately one out of 615. The arithmetic shows that the percentage deviation from roundness of the earth is less than the percentage deviation in the roundness of a billiard ball. If a billiard ball with the maximum deviation were to be expanded to the size of the earth, it would have a mountain on it more than twice as tall as Mount Everest. The earth is rounder than a billiard ball. It's all a matter of perspective.

The concept of perspective seems simple; a new position from which to observe or a new pattern of thought makes altered comprehension possible. Enhanced comprehension provides additional knowledge. Additional knowledge permits more informed decision-making than had previously been achievable, with more productive planning as a result. Surely added perspective will always be sought, always embraced, always welcomed, always valued. However, our experience demonstrates that this supposition is not always the case. Enhanced perspective is sometimes greeted with suspicion or even more violent reactions.

Altered thought patterns always challenge the accepted formulations of previous observation, and they challenge the authority of those who espouse such formulations. Human beings find it hard to admit error and harder still to reconcile themselves with the proposition that somebody else possesses greater insight than they do. Furthermore, newly gained knowledge requires altered patterns of behavior, and old habits are hard to break. Consequently perspective demands courage, the self-confidence to correct the misapprehensions of a former time, the flexibility to alter a point of view when circumstances make this necessary, and the determination to act in accordance with the newly revealed truth. If progress is to occur, these elements are essential, but they are not easy to achieve or simple to apply. They exact commitment and sacrifice and work. However, without this combination there can be no progress, and we must and will have progress. We possess the determination, the self-confidence, the flexibility, and the courage. We dare to have perspective--the perspective of the National Federation of the Blind.

More than six decades have come and gone since the gathering that brought our Federation together in 1940 at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, under the prodigious leadership of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our founder and first president. Conditions for the blind are dramatically different today from those he described at the founding of the Federation, but the task before us established by our founders, which was of enormous proportions at the beginning of our movement, remains monumental still. It is the reshaping of the patterns of thought of our society to recognize the ability within us, to value the talent we possess, and to welcome the contributions we have to make.

At the beginning of the Federation there was a measure of hope, but almost nothing else--no money, virtually no employment, almost no program to support the blind at the state or federal level, few books, little prospect of a college education, almost no chance to engage in business either within the newly established vending stand program or without its support, almost no acceptance within society of our capacity as human beings, and no organized method of changing these conditions. A few, a very few, blind people were employed--but most of these had jobs at pitifully low wages in the sheltered workshops.

By the mid-1950’s Dr. tenBroek could declare that the National Federation of the Blind had grown to more than forty affiliates, that blind people were employed in a wide array of professions and callings from shoemaker to physicist, that education was becoming more generally available to the blind than it had ever been, and that the employment rate of the blind had risen dramatically. By the 1960’s Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, the second great leader of the National Federation of the Blind, had fashioned within the Iowa programs the most astonishing training facility for blind Americans that had ever been created to that day. Granted a presidential citation in 1968, Dr. Jernigan was regarded widely as the most influential director of programs for the blind in the world. The reason for this success was the vigorous implementation of the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

In the 1970’s we had grown to have affiliates in every state and the District of Columbia, and we established the National Center for the Blind. In the 1980’s we continued to expand programs at the National Center for the Blind and inaugurated orientation centers in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Colorado. In the 1990’s we added Puerto Rico to our family of affiliates, and we created the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, the NFB-NEWSLINE® program, the Kernel Book series, and other innovative initiatives. In the first decade of the twenty-first century we have constructed and begun to operate the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the only research and training facility for the blind established by the blind, operated under the direction of blind people, and incorporating the individual experiences of the blind of the nation.

With all of this growth, with all of these expansions in the work we are doing, with all of the new challenges we have addressed, our perspective has changed. We have not altered our fundamental beliefs or modified our dreams, but we have come to realize that our role is not only to observe, to challenge, and to offer critical comment but also to lead, to demonstrate, and to expand the horizons not only for ourselves but also for others within the field of work with the blind and in broader context within our entire society.

If we find (and we sometimes do) that training programs are inadequate, we must show how to make them better. If we find that research regarding blindness is often flawed, frequently without foundation, and sometimes marred by the false assumptions about us that have bedeviled the lives of the blind for centuries, we must design programs of our own that lead in a direction to inspire others to have faith in us and to explore horizons that have never before been reached. If the perspective of the blind is not a part of program development, research, and training, these matters will inevitably be incomplete. Consequently we have established our own programs incorporating our perspective, and we are seeking partners to join with us. Because we dare to have perspective, the opportunities that will belong to us are presently beyond the horizon.

How does our perspective compare to that of others? What vistas for us have the administrators in programs of rehabilitation, the journalists, the representatives of the business community, the scientists, and the members of the public imagined?

In a newspaper article from October of 2004 that appeared in Portland, Maine, Steven Obremski, the chief executive officer of the Iris Network (formerly the Maine Center for the Blind) announced plans to remodel a 100-year-old building to create a place containing thirty-one apartments specifically designed for the blind. The name of the organization, The Iris Network, is noteworthy. The iris is, of course, a part of the eye. Apparently it is intended to convey the notion that this agency will, in some figurative sense, help the blind to see. Or perhaps this is a warning that the Iris Network is watching us to make sure that we don't get out of line. What kind of vision does Iris have in mind for the blind? What environment are the Iris people trying to create? What are the prospects for the future of the blind from the Iris point of view? The article does not leave us in doubt.

As we examine the published report of the plans of Iris, it is worth remembering that Mr. Obremski has served as president of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People who are Blind or Visually Impaired (NAC), one of the most controversial and oppressive organizations ever to exist in the field of work with the blind. Here, in part, is what the article says:

For those who are totally blind, the complex will offer amenities such as signs in Braille and textural changes to help residents navigate on their own. For example, a switch from carpet to floor tile will help them to tell that they're moving from the living room to the kitchen or from the hallway to a stair.

[I interrupt to ask if the officials at Iris really believe that blind people don't know when they've left the living room and entered the kitchen. They must think that the blind are as stupid as a creosote post. But, there is more.]

Behind the residence [the article says] will be a sensory garden with raised flower beds filled with flowers with varying scents and textures. Residents could use the area to learn to garden and to practice their mobility skills with a cane.

They [the residents] have lived in the dormitory, which functions like a boarding house, for years--some for decades. They welcome the thought of having a bathroom in their own apartment instead of sharing one down the hall and having more space, but they're worried about how they would handle tasks such as cooking on their own.

John Lee, thirty-five, who has lived in the dormitory for nearly sixteen years, said what scares residents is "the prospect of transition."

But Obremski, himself visually impaired, assured them that current services, such as meals cooked in a communal kitchen, will continue as long as needed.

This is what the article says, and the picture of service to the blind in Maine is dismal indeed. Some of the residents have lived in the dormitory for decades. At least one began his tenure before he was twenty and has remained for sixteen years. Residents apparently do not know how to cook for themselves, and their travel skills are so severely limited that they need to practice in the flower garden in the backyard.

Can these residents expect employment, participation in the community, the procurement of a home, the establishment of a family, matriculation at educational institutions, or other activities of citizenship? The answer is no, but at least they get a private bathroom and a flower garden. Of course, according to Obremski, they might not be able to use these amenities unless the contrast in the floor covering is sufficiently great to warn them that they've entered a new location. The blind can't tell that they've left the kitchen unless a contrast in the texture of the floor warns them that this has happened. How many kinds of floor covering are needed for this ideal home for the blind? Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, hallway, stairway, and flower garden--all these must feel different to the feet, or the blind will be lost at Iris--wandering aimlessly in this specially designed home for the blind.

Half a century ago Dr. tenBroek proclaimed that blind people were employed as shoemakers and physicists, as lawyers and professors. Steven Obremski must have missed this information. He has been living in the stifled atmosphere of Iris--an atmosphere of custodialism and curtailed potential. He has apparently missed the news that the blind have rejected ward status and have claimed their rights as full and equal citizens.

Several years ago, in his capacity as president of the National Accreditation Council, Mr. Obremski came to our convention to ask us to acquiesce in his proposal that he serve as the leader in setting standards for all blind people. Is there any wonder that we rejected this overture? He wants to set the standards that will circumscribe our lives and blight our futures, but he will not do it, for we will not let him. Despite his blindness his perspective is limited, and his imagination withered. We do not seek custody but emancipation, and we dare to have the perspective that gives our future the broadest range of opportunity.

To Steven Obremski and his like-minded ilk we say, "Not on your life!" Learn if you can about the restless, vibrant spirit that lives in the hearts of the blind. Become part of that spirit if you have the courage, and join with us in altering the future if you have the will. Otherwise stand aside; get out of the way; the force of our aspirations cannot be resisted. We will not permit anything to stop our progress. We dare to have perspective--the perspective of the organized blind.

An article found on the Internet with the copyright of RP International bears the title "The Eyes of Christmas." It says that Christmas is a warm, joyous celebration for many, but not for the blind. The blind think of Christmas as dark, lonely, and sad (according to this article) because they "live without the light." To alleviate somewhat the lot of those with this miserable condition, Helen Harris reached out on Christmas Eve with a program entitled "The Eyes of Christmas," designed especially for those who "cannot see Christmas for themselves." "A host of celebrity describers [the article says] told what Christmas looks like: the colors of the season, messages on greeting cards, the latest children's toys, and messages of hope in medical research."

The pith of this article is that those who can see have joy; those who cannot do not--those who can see the light gain happiness; those who are in the dark are lonely and sad. Is this the meaning of Christmas for you? Whence came all this dismal dreariness? Is it not one more expression of the fear of the dark?

We who are blind appreciate competent description effectively done as much as anybody else. However, to leap from the notion that we might like to hear a good description of a scene to the thought that without a verbal rendering of the visual images of the season we are left in a dark depression is to create trouble where none exists. Christmas is the season of hope--of renewal. But in the minds of those who have created "The Eyes of Christmas," there is only one reference to hope, the hope of medical research. Joy, warmth, family togetherness, the hope of renewal inherent in the season may exist only if the scientists performing medical research find a cure to the devastating condition for those "who live without the light."

The description is false, the assumptions about us that underlie the description are false, and the implications that flow from the underlying assumptions are false. We who are blind are not without hope. Although each of us has felt loneliness at times, our blindness has not served as the means for creating it. Rather, it has been the misunderstanding of others that has contributed significantly to our separation from society--the misunderstanding exemplified by the article "The Eyes of Christmas." If the writers of such articles think of us as lonely, they will help to create the isolation that makes it so. If they imagine we are sad, they will be less responsive to our joy, and they will make us work harder to have joy. Nevertheless they cannot change what we are. The most fundamental element of Christmas is love, and we have that. We receive it, and, of equal importance, we give it to others. Not only does our perspective tell us that those who believe we are living without the light have formed an erroneous conclusion, but, beyond that, the joy and love of Christmas belong to us. The light that exemplifies these virtues is ours, we are living within it--we are part of it. This too is the perspective of the National Federation of the Blind.

An agency for the blind in Birmingham, England, named Focus on Blindness runs a sight-loss course. An article which appeared in the Birmingham Post on June 26, 2004, contains reflections of the reporter about her experiences being blindfolded in this course. Her overwhelming reaction to the course was a feeling of dependency. Here, in part, is what the article says:

If you are able to read this, you should thank your lucky stars that you can also negotiate that bag left on the stairs or fill up the kettle [for your morning tea].

For the blind and partially sighted it is not so easy.

Every day poses new challenges to carry out the simplest of tasks that a sighted person would take for granted.

A staggering 95 percent of what we perceive in the world around us is gathered through what we see. But it wasn't until I took part in a sight loss awareness course that my eyes were really opened to blindness.

How on earth would I thread a needle or peel a potato [without sight]?

And even more frightening was the prospect of being blindfolded and having to rely totally on and trust my partner to guide me through doors, down ramps, and around chairs.

But whatever the condition [that causes blindness], they all make sewing a button on a shirt, writing a letter, reading a newspaper, or using a calculator ten times more difficult, if not hopeless.

However, one of the key things I learned while blindly being led around by my guide was trust.

Feeling helpless, vulnerable, and lost in a world where everything seems to revolve around image, I was completely dependent on all she said to me.

Whatever else may be said about this article, it is not subtle. When the reporter decides that a put-down for the blind is in order, she lays it on with a trowel. The blind are completely dependent, unable to sew a button on a shirt, write a letter, use a calculator, get through a doorway without help, get down a ramp without guidance, or get around chairs without being led. We can't thread needles or peel potatoes, and we miss 95 percent of what may be perceived in the world around us. Despite these disadvantages, the article tells us, our condition does help us learn trust.

The Focus on Blindness agency may have sought to foster this reaction for the purpose of showing how important its services are. Those who run the program may want to be regarded as benevolent experts contributing their time and skill to the unfortunate blind. If this is their intent, they seem to have succeeded, but at what cost to the blind? How can the image of such helplessness and dependency stimulate blind people to meaningful participation in society? How can this image foster an atmosphere in which the capabilities of the blind will be recognized?

We in the National Federation of the Blind sometimes conduct the same kinds of classes, but the results are vastly different. We show sighted people that being blind need not be fearful and that the routines of life can be performed effectively without vision when the proper techniques are used. As with so much else involving blindness, the result to be achieved depends on the perspective of the planners who create the program. If we expect dependency, that is what we get. If we expect independence, that too is what we get.

It is essential that we be clearly understood. We are not trying to say that blindness is an irrelevance or that it has no impact. It can be a hellish experience if it is not properly understood. However, becoming blind does not necessarily denote the loss of independence, the inability to learn, a diminished capacity for contribution, or the absence of a full and active life. Part of the altered perspective in the programs we operate is that we ask blind people to do the teaching. The perspective of blindness must be a part of education about blindness, or the program is inadequate. When the perspective of blindness is incorporated in the teaching, a dramatic increase in effectiveness occurs. For this reason we dare to have perspective, and we ask others to share it. We are no longer prepared to be regarded as helpless or dependent, and we demand that our opportunities reach to the far horizons. This is the perspective of the National Federation of the Blind.

An advertisement for a vitamin drink which has appeared here and there lately invokes the images of sight and blindness. The drink, called Focus, is accompanied by a caption, "See more. Drink Focus." The vitamin A in the drink is supposed to assist with vision. In the advertisement a woman is apparently performing a striptease dance, and a man with a white cane and dark glasses is holding money not toward the dancer but into empty space. One of the implications of the advertisement is that the blind man can't find his target, and that, if he would only drink Focus, he might better be able to focus on his objective. (I leave to one side the suggestive implications of the advertisement arising from the juxtaposition of a striptease dancer with the slogan, "See more. Drink Focus.") Unlike the comments regarding the course on sight loss from the agency Focus on Blindness in England, this advertisement does not describe the blind man as completely helpless. Although he is holding his money in the wrong direction, he has sufficient observational skills to know that, in the circumstances, he might want to spend it. Furthermore, before he met the dancer, he found some method of getting the funds for later use.

However, to portray us as socially inept as a means of selling their product is not only reprehensible but misleading. My observation of blind people is that those who seek unusual and delicate social situations perform as well as anybody else. My advice to the people who make Focus is that they leave us out of their advertisements, or we may decide to focus our attention on them.

A blind psychic from a small town in Germany asserts that he can tell people's futures by feeling their buttocks. Articles from newspapers in Baltimore and Australia give details. Here are excerpts:

Forget palm-reading--a blind German psychic claims he can read people's futures by feeling their naked buttocks.

Clairvoyant Ulf Buck, thirty-nine, claims that people's backsides have lines like those on the palm of the hand, which can be read to reveal much about their character and destiny.

"The bottom is much more intense--it has a much stronger power of expression than the hand in my experience," Mr. Buck told the Reuters news agency.

"It goes on developing throughout your life."

[To which one is tempted to interject, I bet it does.]

By running his fingers along a number of lines on the surface of a client's posterior, he says he can tell them about their future monetary success, family life, health, and happiness.

Such are quotes about the blind psychic from Germany. Although the psychic does not say that blindness causes him to be able to recognize the future in such an unusual way, he does tell us that being blind has its advantages. His clients do not have to worry that he will later recognize their faces. Blind people recognize others through a handshake, the pattern of a walk, the tone of voice, the characteristic knock upon a door, or some other indicator. This blind man has introduced a new type of recognition factor. He might not know a face, but there are other ways to come to know people.

What a bunch of nonsense. If the man were sighted, his weird behavior would not be tolerated. We insist on new perspective, but we are circumspect in the way we do it. Taking liberties is intolerable, and we who are blind know that, if we expect to participate fully in our society, we must meet the standards of behavior that have been established for all. We must not take advantage of blindness. This too is our perspective.

A CNN report from London, England, dated July 15, 2004, reiterates the oft-repeated opinion that the brains of the blind are not the same as the brains of the sighted. Bearing the headline "Infant Blindness Boosts Music Acumen," the article says in part:

Infants who go blind at a very young age develop musical abilities that are measurably better than those who lose their sight later in life or retain full vision, according to a new study.

It has long been known that blind people are far better than their sighted counterparts at orientating themselves by sound. But now scientists at Canada's University of Montreal have found that blind people are also up to ten times better at discerning pitch changes than the sighted--but only when they went blind before the age of two.

"It is well known that you have great musicians that are blind, and a lot of piano tuners are blind. But until this study there was no quantifiable evidence to demonstrate that blind people were indeed better," [Pascal Belin, lead researcher for the study] added.

The research, published in the science journal Nature, attributed the clear differences in performance to brain plasticity--the formative period when the infant brain is akin to a sponge and soaking up all sorts of stimuli.

Belin said his research suggested that, deprived of input, the section of the brain that would have processed images was reassigned to enhance other sectors.

"When these people became blind, the part of their brain that would have been used to process visual information reorganizes to take over other functions."

With those mighty thoughts rolling about in your reorganized brains, consider the inevitable question. This article says that our perception of sound is different from the perception that sighted people have. But what else has changed? Why is the plasticity limited only to hearing? Some say our sense of touch is enhanced, some argue that our sense of smell is improved, and some assert that our taste is superior to that of others. Could all of it be true? Does the taste of our dinners explode in our consciousness with an impact that is ever so much greater than that experienced by the sighted? Do those who have been blind from birth have an inchoate superior olfactory ability? Are we merely in need of training to become blind bloodhounds? And what of touch? Do we feel better than others?

Are the findings of the study born out in personal experience? Some blind people are very talented musically, but this artistic ability seems to have missed a good many of the rest of us. If I had my choice, I would want my brain plasticity to reassign my mental functioning to intellect. The part of my brain that had been assigned to seeing should be reorganized into thinking. If this were so, the blind would be smarter than the sighted. The intellectual class would be made up of blind people. We ask the professors at the universities to work out this interesting experiment in plasticity. In the past blindness has almost always been a disadvantage; let us make all blind people geniuses.

Fanciful supposition may be all right for an Internet chat, a comedy club, or a federal grant, but perspective demands that we be more realistic. We expect to create greater opportunity than has previously belonged to us, and we dare to have the perspective that makes it possible. However, our perspective depends not on fancy but on fact. Next time they want to speculate, let them learn of our experience and the perspective of the National Federation of the Blind.

At the National Center for the Blind we conduct many meetings, seminars, and classes. During one of these I talked with blind professors, blind technology experts, blind students, and blind lawyers about the meaning of blindness and what collectively we can do to improve conditions for the blind. After the meeting had ended, one of the participants came to talk with me in my office. The conversation was comparatively brief, but it was packed with significance.

The man said that he had been blind all of his life, that he had attended elementary and high school, that he had gained a college degree, and that he was successfully employed with a major American corporation, doing important work, and earning a satisfactory living. However, although many of the indicia of success were present in his life, he had always felt that something was missing. In school, at play, in extracurricular activities outside the classroom, in sporting events, in social interaction, and in seeking employment he has been repeatedly admonished that he is different because of blindness--not includable as a regular human being in the routine commerce of everyday life. The admonitions were not meant to be brutal but gentle and kind. Nevertheless, they separated him from others and created isolation. They were always there, and it hurt. Growing up, he read the children's story Pinocchio, and like the fairytale figure, he has forever longed to be a real boy.

But of course, he already is. The reasons for his feelings of isolation arise from the repetition of the idea that he should feel separate--that his life is not as good as that enjoyed by others, and that he is somehow distinctly different from the rest of society. However, we know that what he has been told is incorrect. His life has value, and his worth is great. One element of the perspective that we have is the urgent need to support one another in the recognition of our innate normality and inherent value. We are blind, but we are not repulsive. In fact we insist on being a part of this society--of making our contributions and having them recognized for what they are. We who are blind are as real as anybody else, and we intend to demonstrate it. This also is a part of the perspective of the National Federation of the Blind.

In 1968, when the Federation was twenty-eight and Dr. Jernigan was giving his first banquet address as president, he said: "The very symbol and substance of the new ideas, and the challenge to the old attitudes, can be found in the organized blind movement."

In 1996, twenty-eight years later, Dr. Jernigan addressed the convention again, this time on the revolution of the Kernel Books. He said: "…I am absolutely certain of the general direction our organization will take. Our mutual faith and trust in each other will be unchanged, and all else will follow. I never come into the convention hall without a lift of spirit and a surge of joy, for I know to the depths of my being that our shared bond of love and trust will never change and that because of it we will be unswervable in our determination and unstoppable in our progress."

One of the elements of perspective is time. I look ahead to that point in our history when the next twenty-eight years will have been accomplished from the moment of the speech Dr. Jernigan delivered in 1996, and I speculate about what we will have done. The leadership of the Federation will be in other hands, and other minds will be imagining the programs we pursue. Our Jernigan Institute will have become fully operational, and it will have generated programs to expand opportunity for blind people in other institutions. Our state affiliates and local chapters will have gained strength, and training centers for the blind conducted in accordance with our thinking and under our direction will be more numerous. Research into the nature of blindness that incorporates the experiences of the rank and file of the blind of the nation will no longer be regarded as novel. The hostility that some agency administrators and public officials have tried to revive in the field of blindness will have receded, and both respect for the opinions of the blind and the advantages of having blind people be a part of program development and administration will have become accepted practice. Public attitudes about the blind will have shifted to a substantial degree, and the employment opportunities for blind people will have expanded. From the vantage point of 2024 (I will then be seventy-three), we will look back and marvel at what some have thought about the blind in 2005.

Today the administrators of programs for the blind tell us that we need special floor coverings to get out of the kitchen and that our lives are virtually hopeless. The television personalities say that our Christmases are dark, lonely, and sad. The vitamin drink advertisers tell us that we can't find the dancer. The scientists say that even our brains have been reorganized to be different from those of the sighted. However, the people who make these statements have no perception at all. The summation of blindness contained in this catalog of misguided assessments is completely false. It cannot stand the test of time, and it will not survive the challenge of the organized blind.

Our perspective is not just for one day. It stretches back over the decades to the time of our beginning, and it reaches forward to the moment of the fulfillment of our dreams.

We stand at the edge of another day, and we probe the possibilities that may exist. We have come together to forge a mighty movement of the blind, united and with one voice--a movement with ideals, a determined purpose, a bedrock philosophical foundation, and a membership committed to mutual support. What makes our movement unstoppable is the dedication of our members, the people of the movement. When I come to the Federation hall and I observe the great multitude of our membership, I am uplifted. For I know with all that is in me that we will never lose the faith that we have in one another--never lose our bond of shared love and trust. When I think of the past, what comes to mind is the great family of the Federation--the people of the movement. When I think of the future, the image before me is the people of the movement--always the people of the movement.

We stand on the edge of another day, and we know that tomorrow is bright with promise. Nobody else can create the future that must and will be ours; we must do that for ourselves. And do it we will. We have the imagination, the courage, the spirit, and the will. We have the unity that makes us one, and nothing on earth can change our course or turn us back. We dare to have perspective, and we reach for tomorrow with joy. Come, and we will make it come true!

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