Braille Monitor                                                 December 2012

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National Convention from a Distance

by Raquel Aguirre

From the Editor: Raquel Aguirre is the treasurer of the West Mesa Chapter in New Mexico. She wrote this article, which was carried in the September 2012 issue of Que Pasa, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico:

Raquel AguirreThe first and only NFB national convention I attended was in the late 1990s. I worked during one summer for the Colorado Center for the Blind. As part of our summer job requirement, the NFB CCB sent me and other job coaches on a trip to the national convention to monitor our blind students. I knew nothing about the NFB back then. Since then I have become a little older and a bit more informed.

This year I attended the NFB national convention through live streaming. I want to let our membership know that this was an awesome experience for me. Some might argue that actually being there, physically sitting in each scheduled session was more exciting, energizing, and informative for the over two-thousand attendees and does not compare with my experience. However, I truly believe I was just as excited, energized, and informed as the rest of the NFB family.

Thank you, Tonia Trapp; had it not been for your national convention updates through email, I would never even have known live streaming existed. I appreciate the commitment of the national organization to make this possible for those of us who were unable to travel to Texas. My resolve to be a proud member of the Federation has been made stronger. Perhaps live streaming has been a part of national convention before, but, if so, this was the first time I had heard about it.

All the speeches were inspiring, informative, and eye-opening. Each orator in one way or another helped me understand more about myself as a part of a whole that has only become better as time goes on. Each day of the convention I linked into the stream and turned up the volume. Summertime allows me to change hats from busy teacher to busy mom, with never-ending responsibilities here at home. For instance, I made breakfast for my kids as Adelmo Vigil, our state president, came to the microphone. As he spoke during his few minutes of cyber-fame during the roll call of states, I felt proud to be from New Mexico and felt a sense of joy to recognize the names of people he mentioned. When he listed those who were present and would be representing New Mexico, I thought to myself, "Adelmo and New Mexico rock!"

As I was washing morning dishes, Brianne Kotschwar won a door prize. Of course I had to stop to text her with motherly advice: "Congrats on the door prize, spend it wisely."

Almost immediately my cell phone buzzed with her response: "Thanks, I will."

Later, as I was sweeping floors, I just had to stop and sing the National Anthem loud and proud. I was using the broom handle as a microphone stand, singing off key, and amusing my children in the process. After a while I just sat and listened, to show my respect for blind veterans from across our nation. I listened as each veteran introduced him- or herself and told what branch of the military they represented and the years they served. When Art Schreiber came to the microphone, my kids said, "Don't we know him?"

I said, "Yes, we do" with tears rolling down my cheeks, pride just gushing to be an American and a Federationist. As more information was presented, I was able to compose myself and continued my day with the speaker volume turned up loud enough to hear around the house.

Anyone who has ever met Jessica Bachicha knows that she has incredible talent and is an amazing role model for blind youth and adults around New Mexico. I am proud to say I had the privilege to work with her when we were a part of the New Mexico Association of Blind Students. As Dr. Maurer told her story from birth to PhD, I wondered how many other New Mexicans were thinking, "Jessica is one of our own. Yahoo!"

Of course anyone who understands NFB knows things are done well and in a grand fashion, so I tuned in to the banquet, because, by the end of the convention, I could not get enough of this live streaming stuff. While Jessica sang, I know I was not the only person to have chills tingling down my spine. “Outstanding” is a word that doesn't even come close to describing her performance.

When the question, "How was convention?" is asked, I will absolutely believe them when the response is a resounding "awesome!" My experience, even from a distance, confirms that it really was.

I realize the importance of a clean house, but I know putting those responsibilities aside for a week won't hurt. One year soon I hope to sit with fellow New Mexicans during general sessions to listen to speeches that will excite, energize, and inform this NFB member even further. Until that day comes, I will plan to link into live streaming so I don't miss out. I urge those of you who can't attend to take advantage of this completely free and very accessible means to be a part of it all. Though it is from a distance, you will get the feeling you indeed are there and will know you belong to a great organization.

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