[nabs-l] Action Plan, Part 4
T. Joseph Carter
carter.tjoseph at gmail.com
Fri Jun 5 02:58:08 UTC 2009
I still believe that you are the only person I have seen on this list
who is capable of realizing this plan. Yet I do not believe your
proposal is likely to be implemented in whole or even in significant
part at this time. You say that these ideas are less ambitious than
those the earliest Federationists took upon themselves, and you are
right. That said, however, NABS appears to presently have a much
narrower focus in terms of what it wants to do, and for whom.
I tried to drum up some support to convince you to run for the NABS
presidency, as you already know. I stopped when I read this comment
written by Ryan Strunk: "...he's too old. The division is made up
of 18 to 25 year olds. He's slipping outside of that range..."
I have to tell you that I have never felt less welcome by any NFB
affiliate than when I read those comments by a former president of
NABS—the guy who ran this organization during my first opportunity to
meet with students involved in this organization. I was more than a
little hurt to read that comment.
I have been one of those busting my butt here in Oregon to establish
the Oregon NABS affiliate while battling harsh and vindictive
discrimination in my university and a ruthless effort to close the
Oregon School for the Blind. When the term ends next week, the
discrimination will end with it. With "normal" academic demands,
there's far more I believe I can do, and far more that I want to do.
Until our NABS leadership begins to look to expand the organization
beyond the narrow scope of 18-25 year olds and its present fear of
actual disagreement on any issue of substance, NABS will be little
more than a social club. Without a wider demographic target and the
occasional willingness to take on a difficult or controversial topic,
NABS cannot be what it should be: A powerful student organization
that speaks for the blind student with a unified voice that will not
Now, one of my personality traits is that I am very results oriented.
This is both a strength and a limitation; I will leave it to the
reader to determine which it is today: I have no time for a social
club, but I will make time for the powerful student association.
On Thu, Jun 04, 2009 at 05:02:06PM -0400, Joe Orozco wrote:
>1. The Student Slate
>In my opinion, no job in the NABS board is more frustrating than the
>editorship of the Student Slate. Thankfully, I have never had to wear the
>hat of editor for the newsletter, but I have in some way assisted with its
>revision and compilation for the past four years. You will of course notice
>that in the past four years the publication of the newsletter has not been
>consistent, and while it may be all too easy to blame the editor, perhaps
>even the board as a whole, for not doing their job, I assure you the blame
>is completely your own for not writing an article when articles have been
>It's ironic really. On the NABS-L list alone you might come across twenty
>posts from a single individual telling you the same thing twenty different
>times in the course of a single day. Some people wonder where they find the
>time to post so much. I wonder why these people haven't written articles?
>This is not a rhetorical question. If the shoe fits, talk to Jennifer
>Kennedy about how to submit something for publication. Unless things have
>changed, it was my understanding she wanted to put out another issue prior
>I offer two alternatives:
>A. Impose a moratorium on the Student Slate
>Every national organization should have a regular publication, but if this
>cannot be done, put it to sleep temporarily. Instead, come out with a
>monthly briefing. ... I know, you're thinking that if we can't get our act
>together on a publication that is supposed to be published four times a
>year, how in hell are we going to push one out once a month? People assume
>a publication has to be long and brimming with information. It does not
>have to be written that way. A simple update on the state of the division
>would suffice. A word from the president letting the membership know what
>the board has been doing and what it is planning is sufficient. Think of it
>as a condensed version of the Presidential Releases Dr. Maurer puts out for
>the organization at large. Even a well-written, well-organized one-pager
>would keep the masses happy, because it lets them know that their board is
>doing something beneficial. Later, when the division picks up steam and the
>Student Slate can be revived, feel free to bring it back.
>B. Turn the Student Slate into a magazine format
>If the idea of putting the Student Slate is too much of a break from
>tradition, consider changing the overall format of the publication. Right
>now we have five or six different stories of people doing great things in
>their lives. I think this is fine, but after a while we must surely realize
>that there are only so many ways to be an awesome blind person. As much as
>I enjoyed the Kernel book series, I was not all that sad to see it end,
>because many of the stories are of the type of material that can be found in
>the Braille Monitor.
>So, consider beginning special columns. You can have an interview column
>that focuses on the accomplishments of a board member or another leader in
>the NFB, or consider going out and interviewing someone who is not in the
>organization but who is still doing something great with themselves. I
>wouldn't mind reading an interview from Ginny Owens or David Paterson. Now
>you're probably thinking it would be too hard to interview those people.
>Begin with their publicist, chief of staff, publisher, depending on the
>nature of the person's profession. You could have a column on emerging
>technology. You could have another column on fashion sense and socializing.
>Another column could focus on following our legislative progress. Dear
>Abby? Remember, this is a student publication. The idea is not without
>merit, especially if the inquiries are of the variety related to blindness
>that some people are too shy to ask.
>Whether you go with the first suggestion or the second, you need not feel as
>though you yourself have to be generating all the news. Sometimes
>newsletters focus completely on the noise other people are creating, but the
>news is validated because it is coming from you.
>If partnerships are established, you can elevate your publication by
>incorporating the developments of those organizations. Using last
>installment's examples, you could reprint an article from Sports and
>Recreation's Competition Corner. You could help promote an event for the
>parents. In either case, you can expect that the gesture will be
>reciprocated, and any opportunity to expand your scope lends you the perfect
>opportunity to further highlight the funders that will begin to invest in
>your cause with all the popularity you slowly begin to accumulate.
>Hard work should be recognized. Just as the state affiliate with the
>greatest number of registered convention participants is given a banner, the
>state student division with the greatest number of registered students
>should receive a banner or certificate or trophy or some other type of
>incentive. Maybe a contest should be arranged to find the best looking
>banner? In either case, this begins to set up a friendly competition among
>the state divisions to recruit and bring the most number of members they can
>to convention. Alternatively, recognize state divisions for simply doing a
>good job regardless of the number of people they bring to the national
>convention. Some states may not have the numbers but do wonderful things to
>keep things happening in their states.
>I like the idea of the Blind Bargains web site recognizing companies for
>their innovative solutions. Why could NABS not run a similar voting session
>to recognize an exceptional DSS office, organization or company doing great
>things on behalf of the blind population, particularly students? Part of
>making a name for your organization comes with building your own sense of
>prestige. You represent the greatest number of blind students in the
>country. Now take this claim and legitimize your position by handing out
>certificates to groups deserving of your formal recognition. If you are
>successful at creating a good image for your activities, other people will
>buy into your elevated position and will want to be associated with what you
>have to offer.
>And, where is the harm in recognizing rising stars amongst the student
>ranks? Some of you are really out there busting your butts, making a
>difference and generally making the rest of us look good. We should know
>who you are, what you're doing and how we can learn from your success. A
>student of the year award would not be, in my opinion, out of line as a
>well-organized promotion and recruitment tool.
>Make these awards a part of the annual business meeting or winter banquet.
>Create the right amount of hype around the occasion, and in no time this new
>tradition could be manipulated to serve several important functions.
>3. Community Service
>Nothing builds character more profoundly than the satisfaction of working
>hard to help others. In the NFB we pride ourselves in helping other blind
>people achieve higher levels of independence and self-sufficiency. I
>believe this should only be half of the equation. The NFB philosophy is
>primarily built on the notion that blind people can and should adjust to
>society rather than expect society to adjust to the blind. Therefore, in my
>opinion, it is not enough to convince a person that it can be respectable to
>be blind. I believe the step beyond this persuasion is to show them how to
>succeed despite being blind. After all, it makes very little sense to
>produce a fully competent blind hero if said hero is not given a means to
>exercise his or her newfound skills. To me, there is nothing more
>discouraging than seeing an awesome blind person stay in the blindness field
>because they feel that is the only field where they can continue to be
>So, I think we should take our philosophy a step further. If we truly
>believe that success is contingent on our adjustment to society, we should
>make it our business to help society as much, if not more, than we help our
>fellow blind people. To that end I believe every state student division
>should democratically select an issue the membership feels strongly about
>lending their support. These issues can be poverty and homelessness,
>disaster prevention, civic action, health and fitness, etc.
>Blind people are all too often seen as the beneficiaries of social services
>rather than the contributors. What better way to discourage this general
>notion than the active participation of blind people in social activities
>that help vulnerable populations. Earlier I said that state student
>divisions should each select an issue, but I do not think it impossible for
>NABS representatives to take time from National Convention or Washington
>Seminar to prepare and distribute food for the homeless at a local soup
>kitchen. The argument will be made that there is already too much going on
>during these national gatherings. I would respond with a reminder that most
>of the activities going on during these events are geared at promoting
>independence, and there will never be a better time to make a statement of
>this independence amongst ourselves and to the public than a concerted
>effort at putting independence into practice in the company of blind people
>with such a wide array of skills. Maximum impact will always be achieved
>away from the microphone rather than behind it.
>Imagine yourselves participating in a walk-a-thon supporting the cause of
>your choice with t-shirts sporting the name of your division. It's a good
>public relations technique wrapped up in social integration. You'll make
>new friends and therefore make yourself stronger as an individual while you
>make NABS a stronger organization.
>You will not weaken your division because you are not making community
>service the centerpiece of your operation. You are simply making service
>the added bonus of belonging to the group and a convenient avenue to
>practice what you preach.
>B. Job Readiness
>Blind people will have a more difficult task of finding a job if they have
>never been given the opportunity to learn the basic skills that are not
>taught in the classroom. Budgeting, filing, e-mail etiquette, project
>management and so on could be learned by reading a number of web sites and
>enrolling in a few specialized courses, but if you do not have examples of
>how these skills have been utilized, what good are they in your resume?
>Volunteer opportunities do not always involve rolling up your sleeves and
>picking up garbage along the highway. You should do these activities at
>least once anyway, because one of my more memorable bonding experiences came
>about in a human chain as we worked to clear out trash from underneath a
>church building. Yet, you could help an organization build and maintain a
>web site. You could help them write press releases. You could help a
>teacher at an after school program tutor children. Whatever the case may
>be, pick a cause you and your members would enjoy doing and go out and do it
>together. You will grow closer as a group and learn to improve skills than
>can later be used in the hunt for an awesome job.
>In the last installment I wrote of the benefits of establishing
>partnerships. In this context, think of the visibility another organization
>could help bring you through your participation in their activities. The
>Humane Society, the Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, the American
>Cancer Society are all prolific outfits that could benefit from your help in
>exchange for publicity. Your involvement in their activities could also
>help generate more material for your fundraising efforts. Sponsors like to
>see what you're about, and while seminars to encourage blind students to be
>great people are great things for us, a prospective funder will be much more
>impressed if you can show how your preaching is ultimately helping your
>local communities. Find different ways to maximize your bang for their
>buck, and perhaps even more importantly, find ways to have fun exercising
>the NFB philosophy. Volunteer service really can be exciting if you find
>several ways to make it work for you and the organization you represent.
>This concludes the list of changes I would have offered in my hypothetical
>presidency. As I've said, these were geared for the division at the
>national level, but I hope I gave you enough of a glimpse of how they could
>be implemented at the state level with equal efficiency. So far there are
>at least fifteen pages worth of ideas and suggestions anyone could take and
>make happen both at the state and national levels. Though the ideas may
>seem elaborate, they are really nothing more than cumulative blocks that
>work in sync with one another if properly coordinated. My overriding theme
>has been job readiness and collaboration. Ultimately I believe the
>membership should enjoy being a part of NABS and to a greater extent the
>NFB. The board ought to be able to count on partnerships with other
>divisions, organizations and companies to make the work of implementing
>these plans possible. Other people could generate their own themes and
>platforms and produce their own lists of objectives with equal or better
>success if they only took the time to map it out.
>There would be a few other minor things I would like to see implemented
>regardless of who assumes the presidency of the national student division.
>Create a division song. Roll out bracelets or some other apparel. Write a
>division pledge. Propose a division toast at the winter banquet. In
>essence, think of little customs and traditions that can be specific to
>NABS. Make NABS something cool to belong to, and keep it balanced, because
>remember your audience can range from the five-year-old Kindergartner to the
>fifty-year-old doctoral candidate.
>I understand there are people in the ranks who believe my proposal is too
>much to swallow on account of us being volunteers. To these individuals I
>say, "Come up with a better excuse." The small group of volunteers who met
>to dream of and conceive the National Federation of the Blind did not think
>their vision was too ambitious, and their tasks in the thirty years
>following the organization's establishment were far more complex and
>daunting than my little rambling proposal as a whole. I do not believe the
>things I have outlined need to be implemented next week. In fact, I believe
>it would take a couple years to establish a good foundation, but the point
>is that you have to start somewhere. You have to take a few risks. You
>have to allow yourself to be held accountable. You have to learn to want
>and expect more, and you have to allow your ideas to be challenged and
>changed by the people you will trust to get it all done.
>But, we can cover these points in the next installment of my meandering
>thoughts, where I offer my controversial views on student leadership.
>To be continued...
>"A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the
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