Braille Monitor                         May 2021

(back) (contents) (next)

Time to Write Resolutions

by Sharon Maneki

Sharon ManekiFrom the Editor: If you have heard the words WHEREAS and BE IT RESOLVED, you have no doubt heard the voice of Sharon Maneki. As demanding as her performance is on stage, it comes long after she begins to advertise for, collect, edit, and distribute resolutions for committee consideration. Sharon is a woman who manages detail when micromanagement is required and functions at the 30,000-foot level when the big picture is important. She makes this process look easy; she makes it effective. Here is what she has to say about the resolutions process for 2021:

President Riccobono and the National Board of Directors have made a few changes to the resolutions process. All resolutions will be placed on the NFB website shortly before the committee meets at convention on July 7. This change will give the membership a chance to look over the resolutions before the meeting and lobby the committee members to support or defeat the resolutions if you wish. As usual, only committee members can speak during the meeting, but having the resolutions in advance will give you more opportunity to think about the proposed policy positions we should take.

Because we are placing resolutions on the website before the committee meeting, the deadline to submit resolutions will be earlier than usual. To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Riccobono or to me by June 7, 2021, one month before the committee meeting. Since things are always busy leading up to the convention, sending them earlier will be appreciated. If you send a resolution to me by email and do not receive a response acknowledging your email in two or three days, please call or send it again. If you miss the deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairperson before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email at [email protected], or by mail at 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, MD 21045.

The job of the membership is to make sure the committee has resolutions to consider. Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. Here are a few reminders to help you as well as some questions to think about:

  1. Has a resolution already been written on your subject? If so, are you adding something new?
  2. Is the resolution necessary, or would a letter from the National President accomplish your goal? For example, a letter from the National President commending an organization might be a better alternative than a resolution.
  3. Did you do your research to ensure the accuracy of the resolution?
  4. If the subject of the resolution would be of interest to a division, did you discuss your resolution with the division president?

Here are some reminders, taken from the January 2014 edition of the Braille Monitor, offered by Gary Wunder and Barbara Pierce. These reminders are as applicable today as they were in 2014.

Guidelines for Resolution Writing

A resolution is one very long sentence divided into two parts. In the first part, a case is made that certain events have taken place that require action. The events are described in short statements that begin with the word WHEREAS. These statements should clearly set forth the reason a resolution is being written, without being so detailed that they make the reader wish the resolution had never happened. The second part of a resolution explains what will or should be done based on the argument laid out in the first section. Resolves are used to say what the NFB will try to persuade others to do. These, too, should be brief and to the point: long enough that they are not ambiguous and concise enough that they avoid repeating what has already been said.

The most efficient way to write a resolution is to make a simple outline or list of premises which you will turn into the WHEREAS clauses and a similar simple list of phrases for the RESOLVED clauses. In fact, you should begin by determining what your RESOLVED clauses are, that is, how many there should be and what their basic thrust is. You will know how many by the number of entities we need to address or the number of problems we need to fix. After you decide specifically how you want the problem fixed, determine the smallest number of concepts you need to explain to a person unfamiliar with the problem that there is a problem. The best resolutions can be picked up by a person unfamiliar with the issue and hold that person's attention (in other words, they are as short as possible) while still actually explaining the problem and the solution or solutions. This method, deciding the ending first and then crafting the arguments to reach it, will result in the simplest and clearest resolution. Then, when you actually write the formal resolution, you can focus on the writing and the style, having already done the planning part.

Here are the punctuation and layout rules for writing resolutions:

  1. Each argument begins with the word WHEREAS, indented and all caps. BE IT RESOLVED and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, which introduce the RESOLVED sections, are also indented and written in all caps. Note that WHEREAS is followed by a comma, but the two versions of BE IT RESOLVED are not.
  2. Each WHEREAS before the final one ends with a semicolon and the word "and." This is true of the word "RESOLVED" as well.
  3. The final WHEREAS ends with a colon, the words "Now, therefore," and a hard return. Please note that “Now” is capitalized.
  4. The final RESOLVED ends with a period. This reflects the fact that the entire resolution is a single sentence. Sometimes one is taxed to refrain from writing sentences within WHEREASes, but inserting a complete sentence is not playing the game fairly.
  5. A blank line separates the elements of the resolution.
  6. In the beginning of the first RESOLVED, surround the year and the state with commas. The formula looks like this: “BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia,” Note also that the c in city is not capitalized.

Remember that the resolves are couched in the subjunctive mood, which is rarely used in English. This means that the third person singular verbs look like plurals when they are actually singular: the organization urge, the NFB condemn and deplore, etc.

The rather strained form of the resolution makes it sound unnatural and formal. Do not attempt to add to this effect by indulging in jargon and verbosity. Even though resolutions are frequently long, brevity is a virtue. Each argument should be made concisely but clearly. Jargon never helps this process. Substituting "utilize" for the short, vigorous word "use" and always referring to people as "persons" or "individuals" are good examples of counterproductive inflation of the pomposity quotient. On the other hand, because resolutions are formal statements of a policy position, you should avoid slang or informal words like "exams" instead of "examinations" or "quotes" for "quotations." Verb forms like "hunker down" or "get going" are also a bit too casual for use in resolutions.

You will remember that the NFB is on record as opposing people-first language, except as it happens for some reason to sound euphonious. Despite this fact, we are increasingly saddled with awkward people-first language in our resolutions that serves no function but to lengthen the argument, sound pompous, and contradict our own policy. Remember that there is nothing wrong with the terms "blind people" or "blindness field." Yet increasingly our resolutions are cluttered with "persons who are blind" or “individuals with blindness or visual impairment."

Capitalization should be consistent. Do not capitalize words for emphasis. Quotation marks should not be used for this purpose either. "Federal" is not capitalized unless it is part of an actual title or is the first word of a sentence. Since WHEREASes begin with capital letters, federal is almost never capitalized in resolutions. "Congress," on the other hand, is, as are "House of Representatives" and "Senate." Names of departments and organizations are capitalized, but terms like "departments of education" or "vocational rehabilitation agencies" are generic and should not be.

Resolutions often pile up nouns as adjectives. When this happens, the terms should be hyphenated: access-program producers.

Bill numbers are written H.R. 0000 or S. 0000.

Resolutions are an important part of the work of the national convention. The Braille Monitor is a good sounding board for new ideas and new policies. Consider writing an article about your new idea or policy so that the conversation can begin, and you will be ready to write your resolution for 2022. However, the most immediate task is to start working on the resolutions for 2021. Resolutions guide our organization. Put your thinking cap on, and get your fingers typing. Let’s make sure we have a great set of resolutions for the 2021 convention!

(back) (contents) (next)