Elected Officials Remember

From the Editor: Dr. Jernigan understood and practiced the nuances of politics better than many who spend full time battling to get or keep elective office. His personal political views he kept private, but in his public life he had one overriding principle which he used to determine the degree of his own and the Federation's support for any public official: was he or she prepared to fight for the rights of blind people? If so, the NFB would make common cause with the official; if not, the NFB had other fish to fry. It was the only sensible position for a broad and inclusive national organization of blind people to take, and using the principle like a finely honed tool, Dr. Jernigan became a master at winning political allies and building consensus. Along the way he made respectful friends and educated public servants about the abilities of blind people. A number of elected officials, including the mayor of Baltimore and the governor of Maryland, paid tribute to Dr. Jernigan in the days following his death. Here are the texts of several of those letters and tributes:

President William Clinton
The White House Washington, D.C.
October 16, 1998

Mrs. Kenneth Jernigan
Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Mrs. Jernigan:

Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn of your husband's death, and our hearts go out to you.

Kenneth Jernigan lived a life of great purpose and accomplishment. He was a strong and eloquent voice for blind people and worked throughout his life and distinguished career to break down barriers of ignorance and discrimination. Under his leadership the National Federation of the Blind became one of our nation's most effective advocates for the rights of the blind. Through his creation of the NEWSLINE for the Blind® Network, the International Braille and Technology Center, and so many other innovative programs, he put the power of communications technology at the service of blind people, giving countless Americans access to vital information and services.

Because of your husband's courage, creativity, and tenacious spirit, millions of blind people today live full, independent lives and make their own important contributions to our society. No man could ask for a finer legacy.

Hillary and I are keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.


Bill Clinton