From the Editor: Each affiliate on the hosting committee told the convention about its state and affiliate history. Here is what they said:
Of the thirteen original colonies, New Hampshire was the first to declare its independence from Mother England—a full six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. When these Colonials are ready to make a stand, people better take notice! In 1956 blind members of the Granite State joined a movement that was sweeping across America, the National Federation of the Blind. Franklin Van Vliet became the first state president, and in 1961 was elected to the position of treasurer of our national board of directors. Twenty years later another New Hampshire delegate, Theresa Herron, was also elected to the NFB board of directors. Theresa also received a prestigious honor from the New Hampshire State Senate for her work as president of the NFB of New Hampshire. New Hampshire is also home to many firsts! They are the first state in all of America to grow the potato! They are the first state to open a public library, and the first ever alarm clock was invented in New Hampshire. Ten Hampshirites have attended a leadership seminar, and the most famous NFBNH member also happens to be an undertaker! Don’t worry, President Cassie McKinney promises never to embalm anyone unless they really need it!
Last year Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire sponsored the TIME Act, and New Hampshire is proud to state that there are absolutely no discriminatory 14(c) waiver certificate exceptions in the Granite State! The state bird of New Hampshire is the purple finch, and the blind members of the NFBNH are singing a proud song and living the life they want!
Utah is known for its pioneer spirit. This was never more evident when in 1919 a statewide consumer advocacy organization, the Utah Association of the Blind was formed twenty-one years before the NFB. In 1949 a dynamic young blind man, Jesse Anderson, moved to Utah from Idaho and immediately became active in the Association. He soon became its president and spearheaded our becoming the forty-fourth affiliate of the NFB in 1957.
Jesse, a natural leader, was elected to the Idaho state legislature in 1938 while still a university student and to the Utah legislature in 1956. In his freshman legislative year Jesse facilitated the passage of three bills directly affecting the blind of Utah including adding services to the commission for the blind, improving access to property tax exemptions for blind home owners, and funding for purchasing materials for the workshop in Ogden. He also helped block a budget cut planned for the Utah School for the Blind. He went on to serve three terms on the Utah Board of Education and as a member of the NFB board of directors.
Utah became more locally focused after the NFB civil war and much less active nationally in the 1960s. Things began to change in the 70s, and at the 1975 national convention then President Milton Taylor accepted our new charter renaming our affiliate the National Federation of the Blind of Utah.
In the 1980s and early 90s Utah operated a free Braille transcription service, producing more than 150,000 pages including manuals, schedules, the BAR exam, and more. Membership increased, and more members attended conventions and Washington seminars and worked with Utah's legislature resulting in 1994 with the passage of the Braille Literacy Rights and Education Act guaranteeing Braille instruction to blind K through 12 students. In 2010 Utah sponsored our first BELL program and has continued to do so through this year. We also operate project STRIVE, providing job and skills training for high school and college-bound students.
Fifty-four Utahns have attended leadership seminars, and approximately twenty Utah students have won scholarships, including three top winners and several tenBroek Fellows. This year is no exception with Utahn Kassidy Wilde in the class of 2016.
Utah Federationists also demonstrate their leadership outside the NFB. Former president Ron Gardner and Sachin Pavithran were appointed by two different US presidents to the United States Access Board, and Sachin served as chairman. Kristen Cox now serves as the head of the Governor's Office of Management and Budget.
Arriving in Utah in 2005, Everette Bacon became active in the NFB of Utah, becoming Salt Lake chapter president after the untimely death of Nick Schmittroth. Everette was elected president of the NFB of Utah in 2012 and through his dynamic leadership continues the long tradition of positive action in Utah and the nation. He was elected to the NFB board of directors in 2015. Together with all of you Utah is helping the blind live the lives we want.
In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte sold the Orleans territory to the United States, and in 1812 the great state of Louisiana was formed. Blind people in Louisiana were active early on, and in 1952 the Louisiana Association joined the National Federation of the Blind. A convention was held in the parish of New Orleans in 1957, and this would be the first of four national conventions held in the Pelican State.
A category five hurricane swept away those crawdads from our national organization in 1958, and for many years Louisiana was separated by Old Man River. But in 1972 blind people could be heard singing the state song: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine;” and the NFB membership were so happy to accept the NFB of Louisiana back into our family.
There were many great leaders that helped develop the Louisiana territory into a powerful state affiliate. Members like Don Banning were helpful in recruiting new members. Then came along Joanne Fernandez Wilson, who blew into the state like an Iowa tornado! She brought with her the energy of an entire hurricane season and was able to bring about the Louisiana Center for the Blind [LCB] in 1985. This great training center has produced over 1,200 graduates, and LCB has become the gold standard of blindness training programs recognized around the world. Joanne Wilson went on to represent Louisiana on the national board of directors, and in 2001 she was appointed by President Bush to be the RSA Commissioner. That same year another hurricane hit, but it was not Katrina! It was Hurricane Pam Allen who became the new director of the LCB and is still to-date the president of the Mardi Gras State. In 1997 the largest convention of the National Federation of the Blind took place in New Orleans, where over 3,300 blind saints were marching down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.
Louisiana Tech University’s Institute on Blindness now produces some of the most well-respected cane travel teachers and blindness professionals our country has ever known. There are longtime members like Jerry Whittle and Eric Guillory who are now helping to build on the affiliate’s awesome growth which includes sixty-two Louisiana Seminarians! Pam and her husband Roland are leading the way to taking LCB and the NFB of Louisiana to even greater heights than ever before, and Pam is now the first vice president of our National Organization. So when you hear the phrase “who dat?” Well you know it is the NFB of Louisiana!
OHHHHHHHHH Klahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain! Where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain! We know we belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand!
In 1945, just five years after the National Federation of the Blind was formed, the great state of Oklahoma joined the Federation family. In 1951 the eleventh national convention was held in Oklahoma City. At that time equal pay at sheltered workshops was on the collective mind of the NFB of Oklahoma. In 1958 they passed a resolution calling for fair pay from their state sheltered shop. Sooners are known to have a stubborn streak, and during the civil war in 1960, Oklahoma left the NFB, and for many years the NFB missed those fiery Boomers! In 1974 there was a whirlwind of activity beginning to swirl, and a new affiliate was formed. Since that time the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma have been actively living the lives they want and fighting for others to do the same.
Over the years seventeen members of the Oklahoma affiliate have attended a Leadership Seminar. In the past decade or so, Oklahoma has really experienced a tornado of growth and leadership in President Jeannie Massay. In 2013 Jeannie was elected to the national board and last year was elected to serve as our national treasurer. The Boomer Sooner gang now consists of some of the most experienced and enthusiastic members in any affiliate! There are grizzled veterans like Steve Shelton and Cordelia Sanders, while Audrey and Glenda Farnum know how to bring the thunder. Then there are the newbies and those who have come home, from home-grown Okie’s like Rex Schuttler and Cammie Loehr to returning Okie’s, Mike and Fatos Floyd along with Oklahoma transplants like Jedi Moerke and Mike Harvey. Oklahoma is on the move!
A couple of interesting little-known facts about the state of Oklahoma: the world's largest concrete totem pole is in Foyil. It is sixty-feet tall and thirty feet around at its widest point. Edward Roberts, a 1968 Oklahoma State University graduate in electrical engineering, is credited with inventing the personal computer—and he gave software giant Bill Gates his first job in the industry. And finally, “Oklahoma!” became the state song in 1953.All Federationists know how to live the lives they want, so when you hear Oklahoma Federationists say Yippee Ki-yay, you know that the NFB of Oklahoma is OK!