The Continuity of Leadership: Twin Requirements

An Address by Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Dallas, Texas, July 8, 1993

There are two fundamental kinds of leadership that may be exercised by nations, by individuals, or by social action organizations. The first (and more common) is reactive. In times of crisis the political leader must find ways to bring positive results from circumstances which present no good alternative. The second (and perhaps the more important) is creative. The political leader must anticipate what might be caused to occur if an action is taken or avoided—even though there is no event that demands an immediate response.

Leadership is essential in a crisis if disaster is to be averted. But even more significant, leadership is vital when no crisis is imminent. In times of turmoil or stress it is perfectly clear that something must be done. When there is no impending calamity, there is also no obvious need for leadership—but without leadership there is only stagnation. If progress is to be realized, there must be leadership. Especially when the exigencies of circumstance do not demand it.

In 1970 the sixth largest corporation in the United States (Penn Central) declared bankruptcy. It did so because it owed hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term debt. Shortly before the filing with the bankruptcy court, leading financial planners contemplated the possible results. As soon as this mammoth corporation defaulted, all short-term debt obligations for all companies in America would become suspect. The short-term debt at that time amounted to over forty billion dollars. The default would almost certainly cause widespread financial panic. The companies that had loaned the hundreds of millions to the bankrupt could not get the money back, and they would not be able to meet their own financial needs. If they could not obtain immediate credit, many of these companies would, in their turn, be faced with ruin. Layoffs would be massive, and there would be no new jobs for those who had become unemployed.

The disaster did not occur because individuals at the Federal Reserve Bank anticipated the need for extraordinary amounts of money, and (within less than two days) created the mechanism to assure American bankers and capital managers that credit would be found to meet the ongoing demands of business despite the multi-million-dollar loss. Although a catastrophe of monumental proportions had been avoided, this remarkable feat of monetary management was not widely reported--even though the bankruptcy of Penn Central was.

The most important form of leadership is not reactive but creative. It examines conditions as they exist and imagines what may be possible if energy and resources can only be focused. It dreams not of solving the present crisis or avoiding anticipated tragedy. Instead, it seeks to explore new avenues of thought and to build social structures, human understanding, and technological applications that have never been tried.

The history books tell us that the American Revolution began in 1775 and that the Declaration of Independence inaugurated our nation on the fourth of July, 1776. The leadership which propelled the American Revolution is well-documented and dramatic. But if the focus of the historian is on the period of the revolution alone, an essential element in the reallocation of political and social balances is omitted. The leadership that occurred during the revolution is of the kind that reacts to dire circumstance. The Declaration of Independence lists the evils which the revolution was intended to correct. However, there is a theory which maintains that the most important form of leadership on this side of the Atlantic transpired before the first shot was fired and long before the Declaration was signed.

To be successful, the revolution had to occur within a society which believed that the old order was no longer tenable. The military strategists could synthesize and implement the alteration, but the underlying reality of the thought processes, at least in large measure, needed to be in place. Otherwise, the population on the North American continent would not have tolerated the revolution. The leadership which brought the citizens of the colonies to believe "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES" occurred long before the march to Lexington and Concord in 1775. That leadership had already created in the minds of the American colonists the conviction that our country should be free and independent--that reliance on those governing other lands was no longer endurable--that an entirely innovative form of government should be adopted.

Although certain patterns of human behavior recur, the complex fabric of being is ever new. As we meet here tonight in the largest gathering of the blind that will assemble anywhere in the United States this year, the opportunities for leadership will be (and are) abundant. What will our reaction be to the challenges of today? But even more to the point, what can we create through focused energy and collective imagination for tomorrow?

In 1940, when Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a small group of other blind people brought the National Federation of the Blind into being in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, conditions for the blind were exceedingly poor. There was very little training, almost no opportunity for employment, and (except for occasional social encounters) almost no chance for meaningful interaction. Schools for the blind had been established in many states, but almost without exception these institutions had not found a way to encourage their students to become productively employed. Some sheltered workshops had been created, but the work was simple and repetitive, and the pay was dismally low. Modern training centers had not yet been invented. Almost no blind person had learned to travel confidently with a cane. Training in the manual arts, home economics, and communication skills was not readily available. When the Federation came into being on that eventful day in 1940, the notion of widespread productivity for blind people was no more than a shadow and a dream. ,br> What a dramatic contrast with conditions as we find them today after more than fifty years of effort! Blind people are now students in the schools, colleges, and universities, both public and private. Employment opportunities for the blind are (for many of us) not a matter for the decades to come but a reality of the present. Blind people have become teachers, farmers, factory workers, restaurant operators, scientists, engineers, and financial consultants. Increasingly, the blind are accepting the responsibilities of a job, a home, and a place in the community. Not only are we becoming participants in the social structure of our country, but ever more often we are helping to shape it. Some of us have become active in politics, and others of us are sailing the seas and managing race cars. Not all of the problems faced by the blind have been solved--far from it. But many have. Not all of the negative attitudes about us have been eradicated, but it is fair to say that all of them have been affected by our years of effort. The reason for the alteration can be found in this room tonight--in the sacrifice, the commitment, and the belief of the blind of this nation--in our organization, the National Federation of the Blind.

Until the establishment of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, leadership in matters involving the blind was provided (to the extent that it was provided at all) by those in the governmental and private agencies doing work with the blind. It was assumed that blind people themselves should not attempt to become leaders because the effort would meet with inevitable failure.

In 1937 (and I remind you that 1937 was more than a third of the way through the present century) a book was published that today would be unimaginable. It would either be the target of intense anger or uproarious laughter. And it was written by a blind author--a man of some renown at the time--Henry Randolph Latimer. Entitled The Conquest of Blindness, it contains the following astonishing statements:

To what extent may the physically blind person, with safety, lead the physically blind?

Time and time again, here and there, "all-blind" societies have been formed with the avowed purpose of taking over the affairs of blind people, only to disintegrate through dissensions incident to their self-imposed isolation.

At best, [Latimer continues] blindness is a negative bond of common action. As such, like any other human want, it weakens and disappears in exact proportion as its needs are met. Accordingly, all-blind clubs and societies include among their active membership comparatively few of the independently successful blind people.

That's what he says, and I want you to keep in mind that he's talking about you and me. I wonder how he'd feel if he could be here with us tonight in our thousands. Regardless of that, here is some more of it:

On the other hand, their stronger members tend to become lukewarm and to seek more practical outlets for their superfluous energy. Thus the less experienced and less capable members assume leadership in the affairs of the club, causing the society to lose impetus and prestige.

Here, I guess, he's talking about me and those of you who are national board members, state and local presidents, and state and local board members. But back to brother Latimer.

So it is, [he continues] with few exceptions, that such societies contain within themselves the conditions of inertia and decay. It is as literary, musical, or otherwise mutually beneficial societies that all-blind organizations prove most useful.

It cannot, then [he continues], be through the all-blind society that the blind leader of the blind finds adequate opportunity for the exercise of his leadership. The wise leader will know that the best interests of each blind person lie within the keeping of the nine hundred and ninety-nine sighted people who, with himself, make up each one thousand of any average population. He will know, further, that if he wishes to promote the interests of the blind, he must become a leader of the sighted upon whose understanding and patronage [patronage, he says] the fulfillment of these interests depends. There is, nevertheless, no advantage accruing from membership in an all-blind organization which might not be acquired in greater measure through membership in a society of sighted people.

Federationists, take note! Three years after Latimer's publication about the futility of the blind trying to lead the blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the blind person who would serve as the most striking illustration of the capacity of the blind for the next twenty-five years, founded the National Federation of the Blind--and, incidentally, tangibly refuted Latimer's thesis. In addition to leading the Federation, handling a full-time teaching load, and raising a family, Dr. tenBroek published scores of articles and five full-length books. One of these received the Woodrow Wilson Award as the best treatise for political science for the year, and the others are quoted in law schools and legal periodicals to this day. The quality of his leadership came to be reflected throughout the National Federation of the Blind and set the standard for the quality of leadership throughout the organization as a whole. How different has our experience been from the theory propounded by Henry Randolph Latimer.

Although the Latimer thesis could not easily have been refuted at the time it was written, such is no longer the case. By the early 1950's Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, one of the most profound philosophers and powerful writers ever to consider the subject of blindness, had become a part of the organized blind movement. For more than a generation Dr. Jernigan has continued the tradition of Dr. tenBroek. He has led; he has taught; he has inspired others. We who have heard that resonant voice have understood the truth and recognized the wisdom. The struggle to achieve independence by the blind has been conducted in every part of our nation, and the single most powerful instrument in this effort has been our organization--the organization conceived by Dr. tenBroek and built by Dr. Jernigan with the help of so many others--our movement, the National Federation of the Blind.

If we who are blind possess leadership talents, why are we not leading? In many instances, of course, we are, but the examples of leadership among us have almost always been dismissed. They have not been regarded as a part of the normal pattern of human behavior. Instead, they have usually been ascribed to inspirational and miraculous powers. Miracles don't need to be explained. If you can explain them, they aren't miracles, but only science.

A contemporary of Dr. tenBroek's is the blind World War II resistance fighter Jacques Lusseyran, who was blinded at the age of eight. This Frenchman began his work of organizing one of the French underground resistance movements in 1939 when he was sixteen. With an original membership of fifty-two boys, all under the age of twenty-one, this organization grew within a year to over 600. In 1943 Lusseyran was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a Nazi prison camp. When inmates of the camp were freed in 1945, Lusseyran was one of the few survivors.

After the war was over, Jacques Lusseyran sought a professorship at the university. Despite his heroism in fighting for his country, and despite his brilliant accomplishments at the Sorbonne, Lusseyran was barred from the classroom. In the 1950's he was eventually permitted to teach in France. He later became a teacher in the United States, and finally achieved the status of full professor at Case Western Reserve University, in Ohio. The leadership potential of this blind man cannot be doubted. Yet, the blind organizer and leader of the French resistance was prohibited from teaching in the very country he had helped to save. And why? Because he was blind.

The notion that the blind can and should lead the blind is still sometimes resisted, even today, by some of the officials of the more reactionary governmental and private agencies for the blind, who attempt to dissuade us from taking independent action. The notion that we might have full lives or think and act for ourselves is not even considered. We are depicted as so lacking in talent, so shrouded in misery, and so racked with pain that all we need—in fact all we can use—is custody, and care. Custody and care, incidentally, provided by these agencies. Custody and care requiring a lot of money--either from the public or the government, or preferably from both. Consider, for instance, this language from a recent appeal made by the National Association for Visually Handicapped. Think about it carefully. Here is what it says:

Summer A Time Filled With Sunshine and Leisure But Not For Everyone

There are those to whom the glare of bright sunlight means pain, to whom longer days mean longer periods of emptiness, to whom the change of season brings only heat and further isolation.

Our unique services help ease the pain with visual aids, temper the heat with warmth and caring, [you'd think, by the way, that at least they would offer coolness and caring, but back to their appeal] and fill the emptiness with youth activities and large print books.

The National Association for Visually Handicapped [their letter continues] is the only national health agency solely devoted to the partially seeing.

We reach out to people who live with the “Heartbreak of Being a Little Bit Blind,” to whom the brightness of the day does nothing to clear the blur that is a loved one's face, nor offer a world different from that viewed as if through a rain-splattered window.

Won't you help us add a ray of hope to the summer sunshine?

That, in part, is what the letter of the National Association for Visually Handicapped says—and what a picture! Are blind people ever lonely? Of course, we are. Does blindness isolate? Sometimes. It can. Are these the overwhelming experiences of blindness? Only if we leave the management of our lives to people like those who wrote this appeal. Only if we suffer the ministrations of the National Association for Visually Handicapped and their ilk. Only if we accept the misconceptions about blindness typified by this letter. Only if we default on the challenges of leadership.

The National Association for Visually Handicapped says that it is working on behalf of "the over eleven million visually impaired in the United States." Do you think they're working for you and me? Maybe we would be better off if they weren't working so hard—and, incidentally, collecting so much money. If their help consists of telling the world how lonely and isolated we are, how racked with pain, we can do without it. Let them keep their visual aids and youth activities. We can do without them. Let them keep their syrupy speeches and tearful fund-raising appeals in our name. We can do without. We are finding our own way, and the road we are traveling leads to first-class status and full membership in society. Yes, and we are providing our own leadership.

In 1991, Pantheon Books released the American edition of Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by the blind professor John M. Hull. This book contains the introspection of a man who has become blind in middle life.

Hull's feeling of dependence, resulting from his belief that the blind are less capable than the sighted, is expressed in his attitude toward walking with a friend. Here are portions of the text:

When I am walking into work, [says Hull] it is not unusual for people to ask if I need any help.

Now, with me, a curious thing takes place. I lose my independence as soon as I accept my friend's company. This is because I must put a finger under the elbow of my companion, in order to locate him, to keep abreast of him, so as not to keep walking into him. I am like a hitch-hiker. I am being towed, moving more rapidly than would normally be possible.

Moreover [he continues], we have to have conversation. If you are walking along with somebody for company, you talk. This means that I cannot devote to my route the concentration which it would normally require.

This means that a sighted person cannot simply accept my company. Through no fault of his own, he has, by walking with me, deprived me of my independence.

Through no fault of my own, I have sacrificed my independence for the sake of his company. He then becomes responsible for me. He becomes like a car towing a caravan. It is his responsibility to make sure that the vehicle he is towing is still there, i.e., that I do not become detached from him at some crucial point of the route.

These are some of the thoughts of Professor Hull. Blindness is (for him) an all-pervasive and all-important element of his life—but this formulation is manifestly not the truth. Blind people are not less able than others to manage the ordinary activities of everyday life. Walking with a friend does not strip us of our independence.

Professor Hull believes that sight is essential and that although the blind can sometimes substitute other senses, the substitution is always inferior. For example, stimulation of the urges of the body for food and (you guessed it) sex are, according to Hull, primarily visual. Here, in part, is what he says:

Early in infancy we learn to associate our desires with the visual images of the things which satisfy them. So complete is the identification of desire with image that it becomes difficult to distinguish between "I feel hungry" and "I want to eat that food which I see there."

Blindness dislocates this primordial union of desire and image. [I interrupt to say that I really wonder whether these high-flown notions have any connection with everyday life. Is there really a primordial union of desire and image? Has your primordial union suffered a dislocation in your attempt to eat your dinner tonight? But back to Professor Hull.]

Naturally [he continues], sight is not the only sense to be involved. As always, however, sight is the foundation upon which the other senses build.

I am often [says Hull] bored by food, feel that I am losing interest in it, or cannot be bothered eating. At the same time, I have the normal pangs of hunger. Even whilst feeling hungry, I remain unmotivated by the approach of food.

Something rather similar [he continues] seems to happen in the case of sexual desire. The image [visual I presume he means] of that which satisfies is quite inseparable from the realization of the desire itself.

So it is possible, I think [says Hull], for a heterosexual blind man to be bored by women and yet to be conscious of sexual hunger. The trace of a perfume and the nuance of a voice are insubstantial when compared with the full-bodied impact upon a sighted man of the appearance of an attractive woman. There must be many [blind] men who wonder whether they will ever again be capable of genuine sexual excitement.

To which I respond, don't you believe it. When you are hungry, do you find yourselves uninterested in food? Are blind people generally a lot skinnier than the sighted? And speaking of desire, perhaps I should address myself to the men. Do you wonder whether you will ever again be capable of genuine sexual excitement? Take a moment, think of women. Are you bored? And what do you women say? Have you lost the power of romantic encounter?

It is a temptation to dismiss the writings of Professor Hull as the work of a nut. However, the Washington Post says of his book that "it glows with a light that enables the sighted to see a world beyond ordinary experience, and the blind reader to identify with a role model of uncommon courage and sensitivity. We must all be grateful [the Post says] for the appearance of this stunning book."

That is what the Washington Post says, but Professor Hull is no model for us to follow. He is headed in the wrong direction. He believes that he is weaker and less capable than his sighted colleagues, and perhaps he is, but the problem is not his blindness. If he could only know the members of the National Federation of the Blind--if he could know and follow the example of that other professor, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, what might his life become?

Within the past few years a number of books have been written which have attempted to capitalize on the special needs or unusual requirements of the blind. One of these books, entitled One Way or Another: A Guide to Independence for the Visually Impaired and Their Families, is a compilation of helpful hints. There is apprehension for the newly blinded and their families about what lies ahead. Nevertheless, I wonder whether the suggestions in this book will help to alleviate the distress or will simply enhance the uncertainty. Here are some of the suggestions:

Before you even begin the process of reorientation [say the authors], discuss it at length with the visually impaired person. You can suggest tasks that are safety oriented, such as dialing the phone, and finding the front door.

Don't make decisions for him. If he wants to keep the elaborate furniture arrangement and learn to navigate around it—so be it! Applaud his sense of adventure and determination. Don't insist that he move all the furniture against the walls just because it would make the reorientation easier for you.

These are the exact words of the book, and the question comes to mind, are the authors serious? Is it advisable to adopt a special arrangement of the furniture for the blind? Why would it be easier to push the furniture against the wall? But there is more.

If [the authors say] your loved one is reluctant to leave his bedroom, allow him that. But help him explore that roomshow him every inch. As he gains confidence in his bedroom, he will soon want to branch out and reacquaint himself with every room in the house. Ask if he would like you to set up guide ropes or landmarks, as temporary aids, to help him find his way around.

This is what the authors say, and you would think that they were talking about small, not very bright children—but they aren't, they're talking about adult blind people. They're talking about you and me—including guide ropes in the living room. Although I have been totally blind for a great many years, and although I have known thousands of blind people (many of them newly-blinded), I have never yet met a blind person who had guide ropes installed in his house to get from room to room.

In 1568, the Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel, painted The Parable of the Blind also entitled The Blind Leading the Blind. Six blind men are depicted traveling together. The six form a line by having the second man hold to the first, the third hold to the second, and so on until they are all connected. The leading blind character has fallen into a brook, and the second is in the act of falling. Those still erect are clearly headed for the same fate.

The blind men apparently suffer from at least five different kinds of eye diseases. The accuracy of detail in the painting is noteworthy because, at the time it was completed, very little was known about diseases of the eye. Blindness, it was believed, was the result of bad gasses rising from the stomach. Advice from doctors of the sixteenth century to those suffering eye disorders was that an attendant should be found to ■blow into the eye gently with a breath sweetened by chewing cloves or fennel.■

The Bruegel painting would be interesting only for historical purposes, except that it has served as the basis for a novel by Gert Hofmann entitled The Parable of the Blind, published in Germany in 1985, and translated for publication in the United States in 1986.

The novel relates the events of the day in the lives of the six blind men who posed for the Bruegel painting. At dawn they are awakened from sleep in a barn by a banging on the door. At dark they are again locked in the barn for the night. The hours between are described in painful detail. The six are shown as cringing, self-centered, suspicious, but above all bumbling, unfit, inept. It may be that there are six blind people in this country today who are so lacking in perception that they could fit the portrayal, but I doubt it. When they wake in the barn, they do not know their own names but must take a moment to remember. They are not certain how many of them are present. They feel themselves all over to recall what they are like and to seek some identity with what they were yesterday and what they may become tomorrow. But, let Mr. Hofmann speak for himself. Here are his own words:

A knocking on the barn door drags us out of our sleep. No, the knocking isn't inside us, it's outside, where the other people are.

Yes, we call as we crouch there. Now what do you want of us?

And he asks if we've forgotten about being painted today.

So we must get up now and go to the village green. It's time, the knocker says. We have to walk around in the village a bit, to practice.

And why walk around? Because we've got to practice the walking that will be painted, the knocker says. Especially the stumbling and falling, the different kinds of fall.

But aren't we going to be painted sitting? No, not sitting, the painter says. So we're going to be painted walking? Stumbling and falling and screaming. Do we have to practice screaming? He doesn't know. Probably we'll have to. Wait, we call, we're coming.

Slowly, clawing at one another, we get out of the straw, struggle to our feet. Then we grope at ourselves and at one another. Then we pass our hands over our bodies. Yes, we're still the same people as yesterday. And probably to the end we'll be yesterday's people and gradually now we remember ourselves better, down to the smallest details. Everything comes back again, even that which was buried, and we're very startled. We remember our names again too, the names we call one another. And this morning, as we feel our heads, arms, and sticks, we're probably the same for others. This is how we'll be painted, it will be quite a big picture, because there are several of us, six perhaps.

That is what the author says, and despite the surrealist style, the depiction of the blind is the same old tiresome lie which has been monotonously told from the beginning of time. Do you wake in the morning and rub yourself all over to remember who you are? Do you have to work to recall your own name? The author's fantasy is just that--fantasy! But of course, he may argue that he was not describing fact but creating an allegory. He may say that the behavior of the characters is exaggerated for emphasis. Indeed, there is dialogue later in the book which might suggest this thought. Consider this portion of the text:

Isn't that it? the painter says. And he's very excited now by the sight of us (the sight of us on the bridge and on the canvas). Which, as he exclaims again and again, does wondrously sum up the ways of the world and the fate of man. Nor do we know [the novel continues] what the sight of us sums up for the painter, we just go on saying: All right, now we'll fall, all right, time to fall. And let ourselves be led back to the bridge, stumble, scream, and fall. But we can't leave the scene yet, we're still being painted. The painter is the only person who isn't worn out, while his good friend calls out to him over and over again how excellent he finds what's being painted, and that if the painter means to paint a masterpiece he only has to go on like this. Until we suddenly feel we're not needed anymore, until somebody even shouts this to us. Somebody who'd been silent till now shouts it from the window.

Stop now, he shouts, take them away.

Both the Flemish painter and the twentieth century author apparently believe that the blind are a striking example of the benighted guiding the ignorant. The predetermined result is inescapable disaster. But their characterization is not the truth. We who are blind are not forever bound in intellectual isolation. Blindness does not equate with stupidity. We possess talents, and we are living demonstrations that we can be creative. We have the curiosity, the commitment, and the energy to play a full part in the society in which we live.

There is at least one other way to interpret the Hofmann parable. Time and time again the blind are used to achieve somebody else's private ends regardless of the harm that may be caused to the blind. The parable of Hofmann's book may be that if the blind do not lead the blind, there will be oppression, tyranny, and humiliation. The real moral of the novel (the one that Hofmann himself probably did not understand) is that we must accept the demands and challenges of leadership and the direction of our own lives. If we do not, the theorizing about blindness and the shaping of public attitudes concerning the blind will be left to others—to writers like Hofmann and Hull. We cannot, and we will not let this happen. Hofmann's parable is not ours. It may have had power for a different era, but that time is no more. We are the blind, the organized blind—and we intend to lead. We have come together from every part of the nation, and we have formed a common bond. We think and write and act for ourselves. We are the National Federation of the Blind.

Blindness and blind people have been misrepresented, falsely portrayed, and misunderstood from the beginning of recorded history. The thinkers, the dreamers, the shapers of political thought and cultural comprehension have almost always been sighted. If they ever thought about blindness, they gave it only the briefest attention. They assumed that they themselves would not be able to compete effectively if they lost their sight, and they attributed this presumed incompetence to us as well, to all of the blind. Leadership with respect to the affairs of the blind has proceeded during almost all of history from the viewpoint of the sighted. Until quite recently blind people have not, to any great extent, been leaders of the blind.

When the National Federation of the Blind was founded a fundamental change in emphasis and prospect was initiated. But the creation of a body of philosophical understanding which would permit the establishment of a pattern of leadership by blind people could not be fully developed in a year, a decade, or even half a century. The notion that the blind could and would lead the blind demanded a change in the basic thought processes of society—in the entire culture—not only of the sighted but also of the blind.

It is of utmost significance to respond with decision and determination in times of crisis. We, the organized blind, must be prepared to take concerted action whenever our collective effort can solve the immediate problems we face. However, of even greater importance is the need to stimulate an atmosphere of understanding—of acceptance of the blind on terms of equality. This must occur all over the nation—in our homes, our immediate neighborhoods, and our broader communities. The leadership that inspires this attitude must be a part of our thoughts and actions every day.

If we collectively and individually do not meet the challenge of leadership which is now before us, the odd-ball notions and crazy ideas about us will continue to impede our progress and stifle our growth. Furthermore, there is nobody that can do it for us—we must meet the challenge ourselves. Let the sighted march with us, and increasingly they do. Let the governmental and private agencies join the effort, and ever growing numbers are doing so. But in the final analysis, others cannot shape the future for us. We must make our own tomorrow. We know what our problems are, and we know how to deal with them. We know how to find the means and how to focus the effort. We cannot fail or turn back. The stakes are too high and the prize too great. In the spirit of Dr. Perry, who was the precursor; of Dr. tenBroek, who was the founder and pioneer; and of Dr. Jernigan, who has been the organizer and builder—yes, and also in the spirit of those who will look back to test our actions and judgment, we of this generation must and will do what is needed to bring the blind closer to full membership in society. We will respond to crisis as we must, but we will also be creative and plan ahead. In the certainty of our strength to do what must be done and our belief in each other and ourselves, we face the future with confidence and joy. We are the organized blind. We are the National Federation of the Blind. My brothers and my sisters, we will make it come true!

Back to Top | More Banquet Speeches | NFB Home