[nabs-l] Action Plan, Part 4

Beth thebluesisloose at gmail.com
Sun Jun 7 01:09:44 UTC 2009

I second that, Joseph, after reading Joe's awesome proposals.  I know
plenty of people, young and old, that would enefit from NABS and its

On 6/6/09, T. Joseph Carter <carter.tjoseph at gmail.com> wrote:
> Since about three people have told me there are other factors Ryan
> may not have wanted to drag me into, I'll chalk up his comment in
> response to my question as possibly the best answer he could think of
> to avoid doing so.  I am certain he had no idea something he offered
> dismissively would be taken personally.
> With that perspective, I no longer do.  It seems important to me,
> though, to set the record straight.  I was apparently wrong about
> this.
> I continue to believe that NABS should work to reach out to both
> younger and older students to advance the goals of this organization
> and of the NFB as a whole.
> Joseph
> On Thu, Jun 04, 2009 at 07:58:08PM -0700, T. Joseph Carter wrote:
>> Joe,
>> 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 be
>> ignored.
>> 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.
>> Joseph
>> On Thu, Jun 04, 2009 at 05:02:06PM -0400, Joe Orozco wrote:
>>> Dear all,
>>> 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
>>> requested.
>>> 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
>>> to convention.
>>> 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.
>>> 2. Awards
>>> 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
>>> awesome.
>>> 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.
>>> Benefits:
>>> A. Visibility
>>> 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.
>>> C. Partnerships
>>> 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...
>>> Joe Orozco
>>> "A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the
>>> crowd."--Max Lucado
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