Braille Monitor                          February 2020

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Having a Voice and More

by Cassie McKinney

From the Editor: What we take for granted is often surprising until some person or circumstance brings it to our attention. Feeling good is taken for granted until we suffer for a week with a cold or a day with a bad headache. At least in my case, for the next little while I wake with gratitude, but alas, it doesn’t last long. Pretty soon I am taking the good for granted as nothing more than what I am due. It is my normal, and it is to my shame that I discount the blessings in my midst.

Cassie McKinney is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, a wife and mother of two, and a fulltime funeral director. She is more than busy, but she doesn’t take for granted her right to vote and the homework that should go into preparing for it. Here is what she says:

Much of the buzz in the news today is about 2020 and our upcoming elections. No matter where any of us stand politically, we have views, and those views need to be expressed through our vote. This is why the NFB spends so much time working on blind people being able to cast a ballot privately and independently.

Blind people have issues that require the attention of public officials, and each of us has a responsibility to speak to the direction of the country and what we see for her future. As blind people, we are as diverse as others are in what we think about the role of government, the level of taxes, what it means to be a good or bad politician, and the role each citizen should play in policy development. So you can see where I’m going with this article; it’s all about voting, but don’t turn me off so quickly because my message is more complex.

Before we undertake any task, normally we learn what we can about it. We get familiar with the options being discussed, see if we can add one or two of our own ideas, and then work at getting to know the people who can bring about the change we want or preserve the things we want to keep. In terms of our political system, I think this should mean going to forums, caucuses, and other public meetings candidates hold to advertise themselves and their views. One advantage of being a part of the process is having others see us, knowing their issues, talking about ours, and helping emphasize to us and to others that we are generally not single-issue voters. I care about how a candidate feels about my access to blindness technology, but blindness is not the characteristic that defines me, and she will not get my vote if we have major disagreements on other things that are important to me.

Living in New Hampshire, I get the opportunity to see a number of presidential candidates up close. I get to see both what the news has to say about them and what I hear directly through my own observation and interaction. All of us know the difference in connecting with other people when our contact is by letter, by telephone, or in person. All have their place, but I get to know people best when I can shake their hand and talk with them. I like to see not only how they interact with me but also how they interact with others and whether there is a significant difference. To me there is no better way than personal engagement  to decide whether a candidate is sincere or insincere, whether his engagement with the audience is real or forced, and whether he seeks office to help people like me  or simply to help himself.

The opportunity to participate in deciding who will govern and make the important decisions for our country is too important to observe second or third hand. The interaction that I have and the consequent decisions I help to influence make a difference in not only my present-day existence but also in the future that will greet me and my children. There is no downside to this participation in which I am currently engaging, and I hope that everyone who reads this will take advantage of their own opportunity to observe, interact, send a message, and in the end cast their vote. I love how being politically involved makes me feel, and I am certain it will do the same for you.

There is a lot of word repetition here with “whether” and “engagement”

Should this be myself?

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