by Dick Davis
From the Editor: Dick Davis is the chairperson of the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee. He has had a long and distinguished career in rehabilitation of the blind and has been a friend, colleague, and partner. Words cannot overstate his optimism about what blind people can do or the active way he has made his beliefs tangible. Here is a wonderful contribution that was written during the Christmas season and can encourage all of us as we work to make 2018 all that it can be:
Over the holidays, as I was reading the Little Golden Book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to my grandson Lucas, it struck me that I could use Rudolph’s story in my talks because it has everything to do with discrimination and the value of diversity in employment. So here it is, slightly rewritten to serve that purpose:
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was a differently-abled animal who faced discrimination and social ostracism because of his red nose. As we all know, deer have beautiful shiny black noses. Rudolph’s was shiny too, but it was red—so red that it actually glowed! While this characteristic might have been regarded as beautiful in some societies, it was a visible, ugly deformity in reindeer society. Because of it, Rudolph was mocked, humiliated, and disqualified from participating in reindeer games.
To make things worse, Rudolph fell prey to this discrimination, internalized it, and took responsibility for his misfortune instead of realizing it was a problem of the larger society. Since he was isolated at the North Pole Manufacturing Zone, there was no organization of disabled reindeer to explain this to him. So, when Santa sought applications from reindeer to pull his sleigh, Rudolph hid himself in shame until all the candidates for the job had been selected.
On Christmas Eve a sudden fog arose, no doubt caused by global warming, impeding the progress of Santa and his team. But when Rudolph came out of hiding, Santa immediately realized the practical value of his “disability” and hired him as lead worker for the sleigh team. The other reindeer, realizing that they had foolishly overlooked an individual with the exact skill set to enable them to achieve their mission, welcomed him to the team.Were it not for Rudolph, the team would have failed to achieve their all-important Christmas objective, resulting in global disappointment to all the good little girls and boys. But because of Santa’s wisdom in understanding that Rudolph’s difference could be an asset rather than a limitation, they succeeded. And they memorialized this organizational achievement by creating a song which continues to be sung by children today.