Presidential Release #533 Transcript, December 2023

This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

PAM ALLEN:  Good evening, everyone!  We are live from Members Hall at the Jernigan Institute tonight in Baltimore.  We have a wonderful audience out here tonight, and we are so excited to welcome everybody in person and also a special hello to everyone who is joining us via Zoom.

We have a special treat tonight. It is my pleasure to introduce Precious Perez, a classically trained songwriter, a proud Federationist and tenBroek fellow.  Her dream is for everyone to succeed in their dream. Giving up is not an option. She's an activist, a performer, actor, vocal extraordinaire, our music educator, and author. Precious is making a difference by using her reach as a blind Puerto Rican Spanish speaker to crush stereotypes by sharing her experiences across cultures and advocating for all the communities she represents.
We are so excited to welcome Precious Perez!


(Precious singing in Spanish)

PRECIOUS:  Thank you

PAM ALLEN:  All right.  Let's hear it for Precious Perez!


Thank you so much.  What a great way to kick off our December presidential release.  We are so grateful to all of our members and supporters here as we are celebrating the generosity and the partnerships that make the work that we do together in the National Federation of the Blind possible.

And here is a short thank you video for the work that we've done together this year, which would not be possible without each of you.


SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  Thank you.

SPEAKER:  We could not do our national convention without you.

SPEAKER:  You make it possible to build community, membership, and leadership.

SPEAKER:  We thank you for helping us advocate for our rights.

SPEAKER:  We thank you for helping us to promote Braille literacy and connecting people across the country on the Route 66 Ride for Literacy.

SPEAKER:  You support our innovative opportunities and recognition to dedicated advocates who are changing the world.

SPEAKER:  You support our mission and our goals to preserve our history for the present and future.

SPEAKER:  Hello, I'm Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, and I want to thank you for your support of our organization.  What makes our progress possible in most years and definitely this year is the support of so many throughout the Federation community.  That's you. Your dollars, your time, your energy, imagination, your spreading the word about our hopes and dreams.  We are filled with hope, energy, and love because we know that your support will continue to be there to help us transform our dreams into reality.



PAM ALLEN:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  And again, thank you to everyone who makes the work that we are doing possible. Now, it is my pleasure to introduce for his remarks tonight, President Riccobono!



Pam, we're like together.  This is really cool.  Usually we have the Zoom.

PAM ALLEN:  That's right.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm still recovering from the last presidential release with the Wi-Fi craziness.  We should do this every month, have a party, have our friends here.

PAM ALLEN:  It's great to have a live audience.

MARK RICCOBONO:  We could have Precious here every month.

PAM ALLEN:  I'm for that.  That would be awesome.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah, it's kind of a blind performers' evening.  We started the release music with an artist from Wichita, Kansas named Charlie Wilkes.  We send our well wishes to Tom Page from Wichita. He's not here in the room. He has COVID. So I just texted him.  He said "I'm feeling terrible!" So, Tom, we hope you feel well soon. We do miss having you here.

PAM ALLEN:  Definitely we will miss you, Tom.  Sending you lots of good thoughts.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Well, we got a lot ahead, including we're going to have a little conversation with Precious.

PAM ALLEN:  Can't wait for that.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Are you ready to get started?

PAM ALLEN:  Let's do it.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Okay.  Greetings, fellow Federationists.  Today is Thursday, November 30th, 2023, and this is Presidential Release Number 533, live from Members Hall here at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute!


You hear a great audience here.  We have the members of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors here.  We also have the members of the board of directors for the Jacobus tenBroek memorial fund.  And many supporters, staff, others in the audience.  They deserve applause too.


So it's so great to have everybody.  It's not like we're slowing down here at the end of the year.  We have a busy couple days of our board will be meeting and making a lot of important decisions and plans going forward.  We will be hosting here at the national office activities of our Maryland affiliate holiday party.  I hear Santa Claus is going to be here next weekend.

And we still have more national events.  We have our STEM2U training that will be happening in December. So we got a lot to do before closing out a very successful 2023 and starting to implement our active plans for 2024.  And that extends to each and every one of you in the Federation because we have some opportunities before the end of the year. I want to start with that. We have just learned that there could be an opportunity here at the end of the year for a tax package to be advanced through Congress and be included in the National Defense Authorization Act.  And this presents a great opportunity for us to attach the Access Technology Affordability Act to this package.  In order to do that, we will need to take some immediate action to increase the number of cosponsors in both the House and the Senate so that it will get noticed and be top of mind when that package is put together.  Our champions in Congress are for it, but having a robust number of cosponsors will help.

So a reminder that the bill number in the House is HR-3702.  And in the Senate, it is S-1467.  We should do what we can as soon as possible to get our members of Congress to cosponsor this bill before the end of the year and before this tax package is considered.
Just as a reminder, the Access Technology Affordability Act creates a 2,000 dollar refundable tax credit for the use over a 3-year period to purchase personal access technology. Of course you can find all of the details on our website about the bill and our advocacy work for it.
If you have questions or want to know some approaches you can take, you can reach out to Jeff Kaloc on our team here at the national office with those questions. Jeff can be reached at 410-659-9314 extension 2206, or by email at [email protected]. Let's see if we can get a bill passed through Congress before the end of the year!  That would be a nice New Year's wish there.


Now, we are looking ahead to 2024, and in 2024, I'm happy to say that the National Federation of the Blind will be bringing back our summer internship program.  It's been a number of years and we're really excited to be preparing to host interns in the summer of 2024.  It's a tremendous opportunity to gain some valuable experience while contributing to the mission of the National Federation of the Blind right here at our national headquarters.  Internships will run from June 3 to August 9th. That's 10 weeks. And it will include work at our national convention in Orlando, Florida.

Applications will be due by March 15, 2024.  Materials will need to be turned in in an accessible format. If you submit an image PDF, we'll throw you out automatically.  You will need a cover letter expressing why you are uniquely qualified to participate in an internship with the Federation. We will also need a resume to be included with your current contact information, and we'll need at least two references and the email and phone number for those reference so we can reach out to them.

A condition of the internship is you will have to pass a successful background check. If you want more details about the internship, they will be posted to our website in the coming weeks and into January.  But if you have immediate questions, you can contact Anil Lewis at [email protected] or at extension 2374 here at our national office.

We do anticipate selecting our 2024 summer intern class by April 12. Really looking forward to that. The interns always ask some great questions and get us thinking about new ways to carry out the mission of the organization. So definitely looking forward to that in 2024.
But let's dial it back even further.  We still have a lot of months before that, and the next big thing we're going to undertake and first big thing in 2024 is our 2024 Washington Seminar!


Hard to believe only two months away. It seemed like just yesterday we had the last one.  And as a reminder, the 2024 Washington Seminar officially begins on Monday, January 29, 2024, with our annual Great Gathering-In meeting. There will be of course a number of meetings on that Monday before that.

Hotel reservation information can be found on our Washington Seminar page, which is You should be sure to get your reservations in as early as possible, as rooms may fill up and you don't want to be left out. I know a lot of affiliates are already planning their delegations and the work of the delegation. Updates will be posted to the web in the coming weeks, and I know the big burning question is what are the issues going to be.  Well, we're going to find out. The board is going to discuss it and make a decision about that in the coming days.  So visit the website, and that information will be available very soon.

Speaking of advocacy, we take on advocacy in a number of ways. In 2024, I have an interesting announcement from Regina Mitchell, who is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, and Chair of our NFB in The Kitchen Group. She offers us this announcement, intended to spark some advocacy around home appliances. She says:  Everybody is cooking during the holidays, including blind people.  And so we would like to take advantage of the newest appliances that make cooking easier or help create a culinary delight.  However, too many of the new cooking appliances are inaccessible. The NFB in The Kitchen Group is launching a campaign to increase the accessibility of these emerging kitchen appliances.

First, we would like to find out what accessible, or newly accessible devices, blind people are using. Starting in December 2023 and continuing through January 2024, the group is asking for blind people to share the names and manufacturers of kitchen devices they know are accessible. In February 2024, the group will begin a campaign of identifying inaccessible appliances in order to encourage those manufacturers to work with us to make sure those devices are accessible. I love this.  Let's start with the positive, what works, and use that as a motivator for those that don't.

So how can you get involved?  Well, you can be a part of the campaign by joining the NFB in the kitchen group listserv, which you can find at or send an email to [email protected] and leave everything blank, the subject line and everything else, or you can go as I say to and find the listing there. You can also reach out to Regina. Her email address is [email protected].

This is a cool initiative and I would encourage you to participate.  As someone who likes to cook, I'm always looking for new accessible gadgets.  I think this is a great example of where the wisdom of the blind community can really make a difference in moving accessibility.
Now, I have some other announcements here.  Our Independence Market would like to say that your Independence Market items arrive in time for the holidays.  You should order your materials by Wednesday, December 13th, 2023, to ensure that your items will arrive in time via free matter for the blind, and they say thank you and happy holidays.

Our NFB-NEWSLINE group, if you're looking for delicious recipes or gift ideas, you can find lots of good content in our magazine section. We of course are again featuring holiday shopping ads have some of the major retailers out there.  And they want me to remind that you it's easy to get articles sent directly to your email when you're using the phone or the mobile app.  And so that's a great way to track information and get new information.

From our education group, a reminder that December will launch the 2023-24 Braille Readers are Leaders contest.


So the group says get ready to start logging minutes on Monday, December 4. The registration of course has been open, but now you will be able to start logging minutes on December 4. Reminder that there are youth and adult contests available, and for the first time this year, a new Braille reading contest for sighted teachers of blind students. How about that. So you should use the Beanstack website or mobile app to participate in the contest. For more information, you can go to and have fun logging minutes and challenging yourself to even do more with Braille. And for that matter, challenge your friends. The contest ends on January 22nd, 2024, and I want to take this opportunity to thank our partners at the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults for this great contest.


I do want to mention because it's the end of the year and we're celebrating our supporters that we would encourage you to continue to take the opportunity to encourage those you know, those you love, to make end of the year contributions to the National Federation of the Blind.  Now, one way we can make contributions on a regular basis as members is through our preauthorized check program, the PAC plan. And I want to welcome the NFB of Arkansas central chapter as the newest member of our PAC program. If you want to learn more, go to You can sign up any time. This is a tremendous way to support our work on a month-to-month basis. It gives us the core dollars we need to do all of the things that we do.

And I do encourage you to promote to your friends and family that we do have an end of the year fundraising match program.  So you can encourage people to make a donation at, and those dollars will be matched. So don't neglect the fact that people usually donate when they are asked. So help your friends and family know how important this movement is to you and ask them to contribute before the end of the year.

Finally, in that regard, a reminder that when you're thinking about going out shopping or doing other activities, you may want to choose Lyft because you can join the Lyft round up program.  And that will round your ride up to the nearest dollar, and those pennies add up quickly, making contributions to the National Federation of the Blind. I have a few Federation family notes.  From Ohio, I need to let you know of the passing of Donna L. Menges on October 27.  Donna was a member of our greater Akron chapter.

From California, Julie Cardenas, who is President of the NFB of San Diego chapter, shares with us the passing of Claude Edwards on November 6, 2023.  He passed away from a very aggressive form of brain cancer.  Claude had a passion in life for wildlife and for birdwatching. The chapter is already planning how it's going to demonstrate its capacity and honor Claude by putting a team together in a local cancer walk in his honor next year. In Maryland, in October, we learned of the passing of Sue Soldan, who passed away after a long illness at the age of 62.  Sue was a founding and lifetime member of the NFB of Maryland's TLC chapter.

Sue and her husband Scott were long time members of the Federation and she will definitely be missed. From Illinois, we've learned of the passing of Ken Staley during the weekend of November 18th, 2023.  Ken is described as a member that had a heart of gold.  He was widely known in his affiliate as the king of candy.  He challenged the chapter to raise money by inviting chapter members to sell 110% of the candy that he sold.  And apparently he sold a lot of candy, like over 1,000 dollars worth. So he did a lot individually to help move the Federation forward by raising money, and he will definitely be missed.

Many Federationists around the country may know him from his booming voice helping out as a talking sign at the national convention.
Additionally, we learned from Illinois of the passion of Nicole Yarmolkavich -- I hope I pronounced it right -- who passed away in October. Nicole was a state scholarship winner in the early 2000s and attended her first national convention in 2012. And finally, I want to send special sympathies out to long-time Illinois member Bill Reif, who recently lost his father. I also have one more note to share with you that was handed to me by Pam Allen just moments ago, and that is to let you know that Kirk Bimel passed away yesterday, November 29, from complications following heart surgery, surrounded by his family and his devoted wife Jewel.

Kirk served as the Louisiana Center for the Blind's residential manager for the last several years. Since graduating from the LCB in 2001, he has been an active member of the north central chapter of the NFB of Louisiana.  And he's served as their treasurer for a number of years. Kirk was always ready to help when needed at the center. He knew firsthand how the LCB training and his involvement in the NFB had changed his life.  And he wanted to share that with others who were struggling with negative ideas and low expectations about blindness.  He was our grill master and loved to teach students at the apartments and at our annual crawfish boil.

Kirk was known for his dry sense of humor, and was always ready with a quip to make you laugh. Kirk was our cherished colleague and trusted friend and mentor to many.  He will be missed greatly. I encourage you to keep Kirk and Jewel and all of the others who have been impacted by these individuals and those we might not have known about in your thoughts and prayers as we come to the end of this year and reflect on the tremendous opportunities these individuals have helped us to have in our movement. Now, fortunately to end this part of the release, I do have one joyous piece of news from Kansas.  That is that Emily Schlenker and Rowan Garel were married on November 4, 2023, during the banquet of the NFB of Kansas.


And I can attest to it because I was there. I witnessed it. The ceremony was officiated by Tom Page, President of the NFB of Kansas and national board member for the Federation. The ceremony was a surprise to those in attendance, well, except for the bride and groom of course, and a couple of others.  But I offer my congratulations on this release to the newlywed couple. I was honored to be there. I had no idea I was going to a banquet and a wedding was going to break out, but it was a cool opportunity and I was pleased to be there. So congratulations and for those looking for interesting banquet ideas, there's one for ya.


Okay.  So before we go to the Q&A in this Presidential Release, I'm going to take a moment here, point of privilege, to talk with Precious. So Precious, we have you, right?


MARK RICCOBONO:  All right!  Precious is back with us.  Still recovering from the banquet idea here.  It was great. So Precious, thought I would ask you a couple of questions since we're honored to have you here at our supporter event, and, you know, you're someone that has really taken to heart living the life you want and pursuing your dreams.  And Pam kind of covered it in the introduction. You have quite the variety of things under your belt already as really a young professional. But you have taken on a broader role also of helping to get people with disabilities recognized in the performing arts industries.  And so maybe you could talk to us about RAMPD.

PRECIOUS:  Yes.  RAMPD stands for Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities.  We are an award winning platform that connects the music industry to a growing network of disabled music professionals.  So there's a hub where industry leaders and companies can go and search for disabled talent and find us and hire us.  And then RAMPD also has a mission of promoting inclusion, advocating for accessibility within the music industry, and amplifying disability culture.

MARK RICCOBONO:  And I think that's a great springboard from the leadership that you've provided to our performing arts division.  Can you talk about some of the things you've done with RAMPD?

PRECIOUS:  Yeah.  So we're going into our third year of partnering with the grammies, making sure there's ASL and captioning and audio description and all these different things during grammy live and the premiere show.  We've been featured in places like The New York Times, Billboard.  And we're just getting started.  It's very exciting to see that disability is something that is becoming something to celebrate in the mainstream because representation as we know is still lacking.  And so what we're working on is making sure that we are in these spaces and we are included and we're working together with the music industry to make the positive change that's necessary.  And I'm really honored to get to say that I'm at the helm as President now.


MARK RICCOBONO: Nice. Nice. Now, you know, of course it's stereotypical that blind people have lots of musical talent.  But you actually do.  Can you tell us about your music?

PRECIOUS:  Yeah.  So when I was I think 18, my first album, "Hummingbird," was released.  And that was with the help of my music teacher in high school and his producer friend Doug.  Three both now dear friends of mine.  And that kind of kickstarted my music career while I was at Berkeley.  And then I've just been working at it for all these years and growing and pushing through and past every rejection and all these things.  And now I'm getting way more into the Latin space.  Now I'm known as the (speaking Spanish).  I'm looking forward to being the first blind Latina in the industry.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I know we will put in the chat where you can find her on Spotify and Apple, etc.  And we're going to come back to Berkeley.  You mentioned Berkeley. But it's not just music, right?  You have a book.

PRECIOUS:  Yeah, I do.  It's called "Vision:  My Story of Strength."  And it was published with Young Norton Readers, and it was with Dave Eggers and a couple different editors. It's part of a young activist series, featuring different young activists telling their stories and their journeys.  And my book focuses on my journey with disability and music and what that has looked like and what it means and what I'm doing moving forward.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Very cool. And so in preparing to talk to Precious, we had these topics and then she said, well, I also do acting.  Just kind of casual, you know, on the side. So you landed a role recently.  You want to tell us about that?

PRECIOUS:  I did. So I am in episode 4 of the new Lawman Bass Reeves series on Paramount Plus. I play a blind widow.

MARK RICCOBONO:  And this is not insignificant.  And we did talk about this on last month's release.  But we have worked very hard to get authentic representations of blind people into the performing arts because so often blind people have been excluded from even playing blind people in a legitimate way.  And so I'm sure that you're not aiming just to play blind roles, but I think it's really tremendous that you're seeking to represent blindness in that authentic way. So congratulations for that. That's really cool.


PRECIOUS:  Thank you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  All right.  But it's not just all success, all sunshine.  We know that as blind people, even when we have a degree of success, there are barriers that get in our way.  Sometimes big barriers.  And this is where the support and the backing of the National Federation of the Blind is important.  And so your journey hasn't always been easy, especially at Berkeley.  Do you want to comment on that at all?

PRECIOUS:  Yeah.  I was going into my final semester of studies at Berkeley, dual major, education and performance.  At that point I just need to do my student teaching.  And it was at that point that Berkeley decided that I needed a paraprofessional in the room in order to get my degree.  And they were claiming that it was a district requirement that the school districts needed know have that accommodation.
I got that in writing and sent it to them and said, no it's not. And then they said, well, it's a state requirement. I got help getting that in writing and sent it to them. And they said, well, it's still a requirement. And later on, found out that they made up the requirement because they as an administration did not feel comfortable giving me a degree unless there was another pair of eyes in the room. Yeah. We got the degree, but it was a rough time.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Yeah.  And so these are painful experiences, right?  They have lasting effects on people.  Even when you're successful like you have been.  And we've tried to work with you to push Berkeley in the right direction.  Sometimes the laws don't exactly allow us to do what we need to do.  But I think your being willing to talk about your story and share the fact that success sometimes comes with a price, right, because in knocking down those barriers, sometimes we do face these situations and we have to decide how much we're going to fight about them.  And so what I'm really excited about is, well, A, would not have wished that lived experience on you, but I'm really glad you're going to take that lived experience and use it as a source of strength to do what you're doing.  I don't know what is going to be next after acting and authoring and music'ing, but it's going to be a source of strength for you and we're really honored that you're working as part of the collective efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.  So congratulations on living the life you want.

PRECIOUS:  Thank you.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Anything else you want to say?  Holiday greetings?

PRECIOUS:  It's been amazing to be here. Thank you for the opportunity. And I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and happy holidays. And just remember, it's not about the gifts; it's about the people you love and being present.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Nice.  Nice.  Thank you, Precious.  Awesome.


All right.  We're going to send it back to Pam as soon as she takes her chair back here.

PAM ALLEN:  All right.  Thank you.  Thank you so much for the great Q&A.  What a treat. So President Riccobono, we have some great questions tonight.


PAM ALLEN:  So I hope you're ready.  And just a reminder, you can send questions through our Q&A feature or email [email protected].  And if you're in the audience, you can submit questions at the welcome table. We have some great ones tonight, President Riccobono. Our first question is, you talked about Washington Seminar. I know we're all really excited about that.  And we had a question about if there is a description of the Holiday Inn on the capital.

MARK RICCOBONO:  I'm sure there is.  I will offer that to the team and we'll make sure that gets posted to our Washington Seminar page. You know, honestly, I think I first went to the Capitol Holiday Inn in January 1997. So I don't even think about it. It's like imprinted on my brain now, the layout. So I'm sure we have a description and I know last year we piloted for the first time bringing some tactile models of Capitol Hill so people had a better sense of the Capitol Hill layout. So we'll make sure that gets circulated.

PAM ALLEN:  Awesome. So we have another question. This is a question wondering about if the NFB hosts Zoom events for blind teenagers to connect.

MARK RICCOBONO:  That's a great question.  I think some of our affiliates do have teen-specific events. We don't have any specific events necessarily at the national level, but of course a lot of our trainings that are offered by our affiliates and national divisions would be appropriate for teens.  But what I would say is that the best source for you is our National Association of Blind Students.  And I can say that I'm not fully up-to-date on all of their offerings because I'm aged out.

But I would encourage you to check them out.  I'm sure if you suggest it, they would be very eager to put something together. What we do very well is connecting blind people to other blind people and providing that mentorship. So I think that's an awesome idea. I don't know who the question was from. But hats off for asking that question. That's a good one.

PAM ALLEN:  We have another great question.  This is from Brandon in Hawaii, who would love to hear about an update on the Monarch.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Oh, we've been talking about that for a while.  So -- well, wait a minute.  Actually, we have here in the room the President of the American Printing House for the Blind.  So why don't we let Craig answer that question.

CRAIG:  All right.  Well, I'll do my best. The cool thing is, everyone find wood to knock on. Everything is going according to plan. I'm joined here tonight by members from our team at APH and also HumanWare. So this is the triad making this happen, which is really exciting.
So what's going on right this minute is we are going through field testing. That's a requirement by the Department of Education in order for us to get federal dollars to make this program a reality.  So field testing is going really good. No surprise there. Kids are catching on faster than teachers.  We expected that.

But the cool thing is starting in January we will be selecting 200 teachers and doing teacher trainings throughout the country.  We will be training and getting teachers ready to go, and then we will be putting at least 100 units in the hands of students starting this upcoming school year, and we will have Monarchs ready for sale next year as well.  So everything is on track.  Things are going great.  And we're learning a lot through this experience.


MARK RICCOBONO:  Thanks, Craig.  And I assume that there will be Monarchs at our convention in Orlando that people can check out?

CRAIG:  Yes.  We'll make sure we have plenty of them.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Hear that?  Plenty of them!  One for everybody!  Hey! How about a hand for Craig and the team at APH, HumanWare.


Truly great partnerships.  It really is wonderful when people mean the word "partner."  And this has been part of that.  So that was great to get that question.  It did come in and I said, well, Craig is going to be here; he can answer the question.

PAM ALLEN:  That was great. In honor of our discussion you were talking about holidays and cooking, we had a question about some of your favorite things to cook during the holidays.

MARK RICCOBONO: Oh, that's a great question.  So you know, I enjoy making things on the grill, and the holiday is a good time to ramp up the smoker.  So, you know, sometimes like for Thanksgiving, we smoked a turkey.  The turkey's name was Mike this year.  We name the turkey. I don't know why. Sometimes we'll do a ham, though. One year we did a prime rib on the grill. So it's always good. Now, at Christmastime, we usually try to make cutout cookies, which has sometimes been a Christmas Eve tradition for us. What we usually do now, since we have a bunch of mostly teenagers, is we try to figure out what they want to eat because, you know, they're more picky than they used to be.  But we sit down and we game out a family menu and then we get everybody involved in the cooking which I think is really fun, making the kitchen kind of a communal family time.  So yeah.

PAM ALLEN:  That sounds great.  Definitely about the time together for sure. So and I want to thank everybody so much for the great questions that were submitted.  If we didn't have a chance to answer your question tonight, our awesome communications team will be following up. And I also want to take a moment, President Riccobono, to thank you as we're coming to the end of this year.  We could not do the work that we do without your example and your leadership and your heart.  So let's have a round of applause.


And wishing you and Melissa and the kids a wonderful, wonderful holiday season.
Thank you, everyone, so much for being with us tonight. Join the next Presidential Release that will be live on Thursday, January 4th, via Zoom. The Nation's Blind YouTube channel, our internet stream, or by asking your Amazon device to open nation's blind. You can contact President Riccobono at 410-659-9314, or via email at [email protected]. Thank you again so much, and I will toss it back to you.

MARK RICCOBONO: Thank you very much. As we come to the end of this Presidential Release, I want to share a couple of other reflections.  Before I do that, I want to remind everybody that we do have an awesome partnership with Santa Claus to provide Braille letters from Santa Claus.  Or a winter letter.  That's still available to families.  Don't forget to promote that so that we can continue to get Braille in front of kids here at the end of the year. Because we are together recording this release, I do want to offer our First Vice President and chairperson of the board an opportunity to share her reflections to the Federation at the end of the year.  So here is Pam Allen.


PAM ALLEN:  Thank you.  Thank you so much, President Riccobono.  And as I was reflecting tonight and thinking about our accomplishment there's year, the challenges that we have faced together, I'm reminded about the core values that we share and the love that keeps us all together, from our partners and supporters that are here with us, our members, everyone who is joining us virtually.  It's incredible to think about what we have accomplished and the work that we still have to do together.  

So my heart is full of gratitude, and as Roland and I reflected about being here with all of you tonight in person and virtually, we are so grateful for all that we gain and the ways that we are allowed to give, and just motivated and excited about what is yet to come.  So thank you all, thank you for the honor and just the joy of serving as your First Vice President. And thank you, President Riccobono, for your friendship, your love, and your support.  Always so grateful to stand with you and serve. Thank you.


MARK RICCOBONO:  Thank you, Pam.  And I know, again, our sympathies with you.  It's a hard week for how Louisiana family, so that's definitely where our heart. As I come to the end of this year, you know, what I reflect upon is really how tremendous it is that we have this very unique movement that is rooted in local chapters and comes up to this large wave that is our national movement.  And I'm really thankful for the collective wisdom that comes from the work that we do together that's based on our authentic experience.  It has been the real fuel, you know, for my life and for my family for many years.  

And I continue to receive the stories of blind people all over the country who face low expectations in so many aspects of life, who are started by almost everybody they encounter.  But what makes the difference in those stories is the connection with other blind people.  And I'm filled with a lot of hope by the partners that we have.  I received a number of stories even this week about people working within the vision industrial complex who, you know, continue to perpetuate outdated motions about what's possible for blind people.  And it's only the fact that we come together.  And through our local chapters, we generate this positive understanding about the capacity of blind people that literally changes lives.

As we come to the end of this year, which has been a difficult year. Started as a difficult year. Thinking about the loss of a number of folks, including our colleague Scott LaBarre who passed away a year ago, but what sustains us is we always come back to this space that we create together.  And I like to say this space is normal, right? The rest of the world?  Not so much. But this space that we create together is normal.  And when we think about the challenges in our world and the strife and confrontation and sometimes pure hatred that's perpetuated, what ripples out from this space that we create is something so different, something so meaningful, that it gives me hope that if we can continue to pour our energy and our focus into this, that we truly can make anything possible.

And so as we close this year, with all of its challenges, and we think about the next chapter that we're going to write in 2024, I would encourage us to focus on that positive energy that we are creating and use that as a source to document, write, record, amplify, post our stories so that we can take the normal that we set here and make that the normal for the rest of society in 2024.
With that, I want to wish you the happiest of holidays, a fantastic new year, and let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.


Happy holidays, girls.

SPEAKER:  Happy holidays!

MARK RICCOBONO:  It's the final Presidential Release.  Do you have any gifts to offer us?

SPEAKER:  I have a joke.


SPEAKER:  What do you call a ghost in the winter?

MARK RICCOBONO:  I don't know.

SPEAKER:  Cas-brrr.

MARK RICCOBONO:  How about you, Oriana?

SPEAKER:  I have a joke.  Why did the turkey cross the road?

MARK RICCOBONO:  Why?  To get the... I don't know.

SPEAKER:  To prove it isn't a chicken.

MARK RICCOBONO:  Wow. Well, I have something to offer you.  What does a polar bear make its bed with?Ice sheets and a blanket of snow.

SPEAKER:  That's such a comfy bed!

SPEAKER:  Happy holidays, everybody.

The preceding message was brought to you by Mark Riccobono, president, National Federation of the Blind, 410-659-9314, [email protected]. Follow President Riccobono on Mastodon. Just search for @president@social. Let's go build the National Federation of the Blind.