Braille Monitor                                                                           November 1986


Please Save me the Exit Row Seat
A First Timer's Look at a National Convention

by Dan Barrett

"I really think that you should try to attend the convention." Those were the last words I heard from the bright voice of Barbara Pierce late one Sunday evening in May of 1986. I had won a National Federation of the Blind scholarship. So what, I thought. I had experienced conventions for the blind before. Why, just last year I had attended the American Council of the Blind's national convention for a day as a scholarship winner. I was given coffee and donuts, a certificate, a pat on the head, and then sent on my way. Not knowing anybody can make one feel really out of place, I thought. I convinced myself that going to the convention would only hurt my summer school grades and give me a week of lonely feelings. How could I have known at that time how far from the truth I was? How could I have known how the NFB would change my life?

Then, early one Saturday morning, I found myself traveling to Kansas City. I was still apprehensive, but I vowed to get involved. From the very moment I set foot in the Hyatt I could feel the momentum. In the check-in line I struck up many conversations and began to feel welcomed. By chance I met Peggy Pinder, the Scholarship Chairman, in line and spoke to her for a while. I just could not believe all the attention everyone paid to me, even without formal introduction.

Soon meetings and convention sessions began, and I found myself glued to my seat. I never would have thought I could have been so entranced by a convention meeting. The topics were pertinent, the arguments logical, and the conclusions the best possible. At the close of the week the banquet was held. And what can be said about this climax that has not been said already? All I can say is that more than an event, the convention is an experience.

And so to all of you who have never attended a convention, I urge you to attend. Any excuse you might have I had, and now I know differently. Maybe you cannot make it every year, but try to get to at least one; you will feel no regrets. From conservative to liberal, from reactionary to radical, there is something for everyone at a national convention. It is difficult to relate what is felt at a Federationist's first convention. Agian, it is more than an event. It is an experience. I thank the Federation for giving me the chance to attend. And I thank especially Steve Benson, Barbara Pierce, and Peggy Pinder for showing me a part of myself I did not know existed or did not know I had suppressed. Hope to see all of you on the plane to Phoenix in '87, and remember, PLEASE SAVE ME THE EXIT ROW SEAT!!!