It's not a great feeling to make a mistake, but when there are enough of them that apology is plural, that's even worse. So here goes:
In the August-September issue I did not include the speech made by Lizzy Muhammad-Park, our $12,000 winner of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. Here is what she said:
Lizzy: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Hello, my Federation family. This honor represents your belief in me as a Federation leader and as a future successful blind professional. I would like to give a huge thank-you to the scholarship committee; to the National Federation of the Blind as a whole; to Dr. Ray Kurzweil; to my husband; to my parents, especially my mom; and to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I heard a quote earlier this week which said, “Don't worry about how you can get out of a situation, but instead think of why you were put in it.”
With that, I need to share a little story with you. After four surgeries, a 5-year-old girl had a conversation with her mother that went something like this.
“I can't take it anymore.”
“You have to, baby. You're strong.”
“No, really, mom, I can't do this again.”
“Are you sure?” The mother wondered what her child's future might hold. “If you don't, you won't be able to see anymore.”
“I don't really care about that. Can I still go to school?”
“Can I still play with my friends?”
“Can I still watch TV?”
“Yes,” her mom said.
“Okay, then, I'm fine with it. As long as I don't have to get another surgery.”
I was that little girl. And after this conversation, my mom told my family about our decision.
“You can't listen to a child! She doesn't know what it means to be blind!”
Hmm, what did they know?
“No,” my mom said firmly. “If she's okay with it, then we're okay with it. You don't know. She might be part of a change for blind people. I believe that she was chosen for this. God has a plan for her life, so instead of praying for her sight, let's pray for His will to be done.”
Since everyone doesn't have my mom on speed dial, I will leave you with this: What the world views as weakness can be used for strength. It is in this way that the least become the greatest. People may underestimate you, and they will doubt you. But don't let people tell you who you are. You tell them who you are. Better yet, show them. You are not a victim of blindness. You were chosen for this. You are in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people, the members of the National Federation of the Blind showing people who we are—I’ve got to start that part again because it's like the best part. The members of the National Federation of the Blind: showing people who we are with everything we do since 1940; Live the life you want and build the Federation.
Thank you a million times over for awarding me this honor. I will do my best to make you proud.
In the same issue I put a picture of Briley O'Connor in the place where our Iron Man Randi Strunk should have appeared. You will also find it here.
I remember reading Hazel tenBroek talking about getting out an issue of the Braille Monitor from the Berkeley office. To paraphrase, she said, "We all set back, took a few minutes to rejoice, and then waited for the list of our mistakes to start coming in. That's no excuse for me, of course, but it's nice not to be alone.