by Suzanne Turner and Rachel Kuntz
From the Editor: This is an interesting perspective on celebrating Women’s History Month, an unexpected thank-you at an unexpected time. What a tribute to the person they celebrate and we give a tribute to them for doing this. This article is one in which a man is thanked for his commitment to the cause of women in employment:
Suzanne Turner is a member of the NFB Employment Committee from the Ohio affiliate and here are her thoughts.
The slogan “behind every great man there's a woman” was adopted in the 1960/70s feminist movement, first having been used in the 1940s. The implication behind the saying is that the great woman is often ignored or taken for granted. Since that time, women have been making enormous strides, and that motto today is now a humorous cliché. Although women are continuing to fight for equality in every aspect, there are men who have aided them in that pinnacle fight. Those men who help you to raise your expectations, seize your potential, and help to shape your future are a value to women’s history. Therefore, I want to take liberty in turning the tables on the slogan to talk about a great man behind two blind women.
The month of March gives recognition to women across the world who have achieved significant contributions. The 2023 theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." This theme recognizes "women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, news, and social media."
As I write this article, it is only fitting that I share with a dear and honored friend in its creation. She and I respect and are grateful for the National Federation of the Blind for supporting our groundbreaking ideas. Although we reside in affiliates on separate coasts across the country, we serve together in spirit. We also share in the love for inspiring, the hope to motivate, and the determination to make a difference in the lives of the blind. However, our greatest privilege is to work within the framework of the Employment Committee chaired by Dick Davis, who is blind at heart.
In 2011 I met Dick at a national convention by attending my first employment seminar. I was elated to be in the room with those who were collaborating on solutions for assisting the blind with employment opportunities. I left refreshed, reborn, and ready to pull up my sleeves and get to work. As a benefit counselor and employment coordinator at a nonprofit, I knew that talking about sourcing for jobs was cheap. Needless to say, I had a plan and pitched it to Dick. He graciously gave me the green light to facilitate a job fair at the 2012 National Convention. There were twelve employers providing on the spot interviews and taking resumes. Although I am not sure if any of the attendees back then were successful, it was the start of what now is the National Federation of the Blind Career Fair. In 2022 over thirty employers were present, hosting over one hundred job applicants. Consequently, each year there are three National Federation of the Blind Career Fairs that are open to all job seekers within and outside the Federation.
Dick Davis is the innovator for creating seminars on resume writing, job preparation, upper mobility, and more. He has created a network of successful blind individuals who are committed and dedicated to assist the blind with getting, keeping, advancing, and regaining a job. Moreover, his article on the “70 Percent Solution” states that, “Employers don’t want to know what they can do for a blind job applicant; they want to know what the applicant can do for them.” This is why the Employment Committee’s focus is driven by communicating the importance of interpersonal skills, mobility training, self-care, self-work, tolerance, and work direction, which mirrors a vocational prospective.
Dick gave me an ability to share a dream that had been festering within for years. I am an African-American blind female who was a victim of Section 14(c) who found herself packing spoons and forks in a box for less than the minimum wage in 1985. I was told that I would never be a competitive employee and this by someone who should have provided me with an informed choice. After all, I graduated at the top of my class in high school and was accepted into the University of Alabama. Despite those setbacks in the workshop, I obtained a graduate degree, retired twice from the federal sector, and now am living the life I want. Dick took a chance on me, giving me an opportunity to prove that my talents and energy were valued. Without the man behind this woman, I would not be completely invested in the Federation. His confidence in my abilities has not waivered. I have known Dick over a decade, and his leadership is a treasure. His manners and civility should be taught since it is such an important life skill in how we relate to one another. He has the ability to disagree without disrespecting the opposing side, then offering a resolution. Dick truly cares about people.
As I stated, there are two women that have been affected by Dick’s influence, discipline, and dedication. In 2016 during the Ohio annual state convention, I invited him to participate in a panel discussion called “Career Building Exchange Symposium” where he and six experienced professionals in blindness discussed topics on career exploration, sourcing and networking, and the importance of the first impression to name a few. Dick also spoke to the general assembly, introducing programs and services at BLIND Inc. His dialog captured the imagination of a young woman who was newly blind and exploring her vocational options. Rachel Kuntz was captivated by his presentation and soon enrolled as a student at BLIND Inc. She was so impressive that the organization made her a job offer. After accepting, Rachel is thriving professionally and fulfilling her purpose as a confident and successful blind woman.
So, the great man behind the two women from Ohio has extended greatness within us by providing equality, security, and opportunity, yes to Rachel and me, but also to the Employment Committee and blind job seekers everywhere. It is Dick’s passion for the blind that binds us together because he has shown us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves; we are colleagues determined to help transform dreams into reality.
Rachel Kuntz is also a member of the Employment Committee from the Arizona Affiliate and here is her tribute.
As Suzanne has thoughtfully noted, Dick Davis has been instrumental in changing the course of my life. At the 2016 Ohio affiliate convention, I was carefully reviewing my list of things to do, and I was interrupted by a man who wanted to tell me a joke. I cannot remember the joke now, but I do remember that I was so busy and focused that the joke went over like a lead balloon. Who was this ill-timed jokester? I am sure that you could guess that it was none other than Dick Davis.
Since our first meeting, Dick has never wavered in his support of me and wholeheartedly encourages my ambitions. I am privileged to call him a mentor and friend. I will never forget how Dick cared for me during those early days of COVID quarantine while my family lived states away. His occasional visits bringing me dinner made it possible to endure the isolation. I can never repay him for his acts of kindness. He and his wife Pat have been an important part of my life now for eight years.
Suzanne mentioned some of Dick’s many accomplishments that have been a key component to the success of the Employment Committee and job seekers. I am going to take a moment to enlighten readers to lesser known work he does behind the scenes. On any given day Dick will receive dozens of phone calls, text messages, and hundreds of emails that will ask him for help with their resume, job search, or job interview. No matter what he is doing at any given moment, Dick will stop to give a job seeker a few words of encouragement and helpful advice. If you have ever reviewed the jobs list, you will no doubt note the volume of work this has entailed over the years.
Dick has taken many road trips to visit with an employer or business interested in hiring a blind person for the first time. He has a straightforward way about him that makes the employer feel as though they have known him forever. Dick is tremendous at creating opportunities at places like FedEx and elsewhere, assuring them that with the appropriate accommodations blind people are capable of working on the same level as their sighted employees. This action alone has opened more doors than could be counted in our community.
Dick, who came to the organization by working for Kenneth Jernigan in Iowa, holds a steadfast belief in the limitless potential of blind people. I can only imagine that throughout his tenure as the Employment Committee chair, he has helped thousands of people gain the knowledge and courage to land that first job. This year, he is at last passing the torch to a new Employment Committee chair. Because of his legacy of success, we know that he has left every aspect of the committee strong and prepared for the next generation of leadership. Thank you, Dick, for all that you have done for our community and for continuing to be the great man behind great women like Suzanne and me.