December 2019 English Transcript

Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Wednesday, December 4, 2019 and this is Presidential Release 489, the final one for 2019. What a great year it has been for the National Federation of the Blind. Just a few things to share with you on this holiday presidential release here in December. 

You know, next – tomorrow actually we’re opening up the new, newly remodeled, fourth floor, Barney Street Wing here at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.  We’re having an event for our donors and supporters called the Kindling Point Sustained. That name is actually also a piece of art that is found in the beautiful new space that we have, which includes 21 new sleeping rooms.  They’re actually numbered 1 through 20.  Fun fact:  Room number 15 has an A and B, because it has two internal bedrooms, beautiful space.  I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in it, working on it, and you’ll be able to read about it soon in the Braille Monitor and I think you will, in reading about it, feel like it’s a place that is home and I'm confident that when you come to experience it you will definitely feel like it is a place you could call home and that you will be truly proud of it, whether you can visit it or not.  It is a kind of space that represents the work that we do in the National Federation of the Blind, our hopes and dreams, and what we hope for the future, gathering spaces where we can come together and share our experiences; pass on the torch of leadership. I could go on and on about it.  If you’re coming to our supporter event I know you’re going to enjoy it and I know that you’ll want to come visit during our tour at Washington Seminar.  If you can’t be here tomorrow and you’re going to be at Washington Seminar I encourage you to come on the tour for Washington Seminar and check it out in February, so I'm looking forward to our donor event tomorrow and to our National Board, the Board of our tenBroek Fund also coming here to celebrate and to plan for the future. 

Speaking of the Washington Seminar, it’s coming right up, the 2019 Washington Seminar, Great Gathering In, is planned for Monday, February 10, 2020 at 5:00PM.  I hope you’re going to be there, ready to help us move our legislative agenda in 2020.  Everybody is encouraged to participate in a number of activities beyond the Great Gathering In event.  We’re going to have a legislative briefing and mock meetings that will also happen on Monday at 2:00PM at the Holiday Inn.

We’ll be having another Congressional Reception on Tuesday, February 11th.  That will happen at 5:30PM.  We have gotten reserved a beautiful room in the United States Senate.  This might be the best room we have ever had for a Congressional Reception.  It will help us take our Congressional work even to a higher level than we’ve already been.  You’ll want to be at the Congressional Reception on the Senate side February 11th at 5:30PM. 

You should plan on all of those events.  As you know, our Headquarters Hotel continues to be the Holiday Inn, Washington Capital at 550 C Street Southwest.  The deadline to book a hotel room is Wednesday, January 8, 2020, so I urge you to get your hotel reservations in for the Washington Seminar before the business of the holidays gets to you. Our room rate applies starting on Friday, February 7, and goes through February 13th, so you can book a room at the Holiday Inn during that entire window.  Our booking rate is $189.00 per night.  This rate does not include the DC sales tax, which is currently 14.95 percent.  You can make reservations by calling 1-877-572-6951 and referencing booking code N2F, or you can visit our Washington Seminar page at and you’ll find a link to the online form to book a hotel room at the Holiday Inn.  This is going to be another great Washington Seminar and you’ll want to be there.  We need your help.  We need as many people on the Hill we can to push our legislative agenda forward.  We all know that next year is going to be a short legislative window as the Congressional, the Senate, and certainly the Presidential race heats up.  Congress will be spending less time in Washington than some years, so it’s even more important that you come to our Washington Seminar to help us aggressively push forward our agenda in the short time that we have.  There is information on our website also about the cancellation policy for rooms at the Holiday Inn, what the terms and conditions are there, so you can check that out, but please make your room reservations before you get caught up in the busy holiday season. 

On this release I would like to also celebrate our Dream Maker Circle participants, all of them.  This month we have one new participant.  This is Lynn Heitz of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Thank you, Lynn, for becoming the newest member of the Dream Maker Circle, the last one I’ll be able to announce here on the release before the year is up, but thank you to each and every one of you who have made the commitment, signed up to give some sort of end of life gift to the National Federation of the Blind to have part of your legacy be the continued work of the organized blind movement.  Thank you to Lynn and all of our Dream Maker Circle participants. 

I mentioned that our Federation Board of Directors is coming into town.  Actually, some of them are getting in today, but definitely tomorrow, so I’ve been thinking about the kind of year that we have had in the National Federation of the Blind and it has very solidly been a great year for us in this organization.  It has also been a year that has tested our staying power and our resilience.  There’s no doubt about it.  We’ve lost some strong people in our movement this year.  The beauty in that, not that the loss is easy to overcome, but the beauty of it is the way that our organization has bounced back and new leaders are emerging in our organization, new individuals are taking opportunities to step up and to help do the work of our movement and for that I am so grateful and it’s been so wonderful to witness new members, emerging leaders coming to find their footing, their voice, as emerging leaders in our organization. 

Our members continue to inspire me with the huge difference that gets made at the local level and that is really what makes our movement unique, strong, powerful, and unlike anything else that’s out there and it is what allows us to have such a strong base from which we can operate a national movement and move, well, really anything we want.  This year we have deepened relationships across the country.  We have reflected our organizational values in so many ways.  We’ve strengthened our discussions and continued to find ways to deepen the diversity of the members of this organization and I'm really proud of the discussions that we’ve had and the new creative ideas that have come forward about how to continue to evolve and strengthen our organization while staying very core to what our unique mission is as the blind civil rights movement for this nation.

We had an outstanding National Convention this year and I'm only slightly disappointed to say we only almost broke the all-time record.  It was a great convention, a lot of great things came out of it, and I am definitely anticipating our 2020 convention with a lot of confidence that we will break our all-time attendance record, better than 3,360 people or so, and that we will reach a new height in the work of our National Convention in 2020. 

We’ve strengthened our policy presence in the last year, which is pretty incredible considering the history that we’ve had in this area, but we’ve also reached out in so many new ways in many communities to get the word out about the National Federation of the Blind.  I guess the biggest news item that comes to mind is our UNO Braille effort.  That’s really cool to be receiving the stories of families this time of year going to the Target store and finding the National Federation of the Blind logo in Braille right on the store shelves.  That’s because of the collective work that we’re doing in this organization and it is making such a great difference in so many place.

So we have truly had a great year and it gives me a lot of optimism for the year 2020, the year that I like to call the year of blind wisdom.  We know that a lot of people are going to designate the year of 2020 as something having to do with vision, but we know in the National Federation of the Blind that blindness does not define us or our future and so I like to think of 2020 as the true year of blind wisdom coming to the front and demonstrating the capacity of blind people in so many new and dynamic ways.  The reason we’re able to do all of that is because continue to be driven by the hopes and dreams of blind people, a growing and increasingly more diverse team of blind people who make a choice to be members of this Federation family. So I want to thank each and every one of you for choosing to be part of the Federation family. It makes a great difference to me, to my family, and to thousands of others who have made that choice along with you. 

I also on this release want to take a moment to give a special welcome home to our newest members this year.  We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about membership, how to onboard members, and so welcome home to our newest members.  We’re pleased to have you in your first holiday season with the National Federation of the Blind and we look forward to sharing with you many more Federation family events and holiday seasons into the future. 

I come to the end of the release also reflecting upon the many joys and some difficulties we’ve had this year and we have lost a number of marchers in our movement that come to mind and their families come to mind especially this time of year.  We have lost a few over the last month that I would like to acknowledge and in doing so, ask you to keep these individuals, as well as everybody who has contributed to our movement who we’ve lost in the last year and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  In the last month this includes Daniel Dinsner, who was a member of our Springfield Chapter in Massachusetts.  Daniel was 27 years old and so left us far too young. 

Phil McGalnick of Connecticut reports the passing of Kathleen Knox, who was a member of our Southwest Chapter in Connecticut. Sharon Weddington, our President in North Carolina, reports the unfortunate passing of James Bevels, who was the Treasurer of the North Carolina Affiliate.  He passed away somewhat suddenly from cancer in the last month.  And undoubtedly, you have already received the news of the passing of Donald Capps last month.  Donald Capps, Dr. Capps, was a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind.  You may remember that last December his wife Betty passed away.  Dr. Capps first became a member of the National Federation of the Blind in the early 1950s and so he served with distinction as a member for over 65 years and he served as a member of our National Board for better than 50 years.  I first met Dr. Capps when I was a very young state president trying to figure out how to help blind people in the state of Wisconsin and Dr. Capps came at the request of our national president to help me out with a gathering we were having that we actually called the Federation Family Reunion in Wisconsin and he and Betty presented grace, humility, and real strength and determination that were very key in my early development as a leader.  I know many people across the Federation have felt very significantly the passing of Dr. Capps and really the passing of the torch that his death really represents, so I urge you to keep all of these individuals, as well as others we’ve lost this year, in your thoughts and prayers.  I am so grateful to have known some of these individuals and to have the opportunity to continue to work alongside each and every one of you in this movement to build on the legacy that they’ve left for us.  It's truly an honor, and privilege, and great joy in my life. 

It's also worth noting that we published in the December Braille Monitor about Dr. Capps and also a reprint of an article for the Season of Giving that Dr. Capps wrote a number of years ago. I call those to your attention in the December Monitor as I think they’re fitting of the season of giving and little miracles that we’re in now currently.

It has been a great year and I am grateful to continue to have the opportunity to serve you in this organization.  My family and I love the opportunity that we have to get to know so many of you around the country.  I do want to thank you for the prayers and warm wishes that many, many of you have sent to our family this year as we have dealt with some personal challenges.  It's because of the strength of the Federation family that we’re able to continue to push forward and get through personal difficulties and we’re glad that we can extend that same kindness to you. 

In a now somewhat longstanding tradition, at least this being the fifth year, I would like to offer you Holiday Greetings and blessings from the Riccobono family to close out the last Presidential Release of 2019.  Be safe.  Be well.  Have great and happy holidays and let’s prepare for 2020, the year of blind wisdom and let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.