[nfbwatlk] reflecting on the NFB national convention

Marci Carpenter mjc59 at comcast.net
Thu Jul 14 22:54:31 UTC 2016

It’s hard to believe that the NFB national convention ended over a week ago. It seems like we were just there. This was really an outstanding convention! 

Members of the NFBW were very active in the convention; from Cindy Bennett’s mentorship of scholarship winners as a member of the national Scholarship Committee to Bennett Prows’s role in the 19th annual Mock Trial and his role as door prize assistant to Don Mitchell’s role as Chair of the Piano Technology group and Mike Freeman’s Presidency of the Diabetes Action Network. The NFBW has a strong presence at our national convention. I want to thank Andrea Travis, our state’s Alternate Delegate, for her hard work during the convention. 

There were many great presentations. Several young people who have participated in our Youth Slam and STEM programs spoke of their experiences and how the NFB has influenced them. One notable presenter was Jordyn Castor, who is not employed by Apple. Here is a YouTube video of her talk;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KhiLBGffIE <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KhiLBGffIE>

The Presidential Report was packed with the accomplishments of this past year and is a good way to answer the question; Why the NFB? It can be found at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/convent/presidential-report-2016.html <https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/convent/presidential-report-2016.html>

We passed 16 resolutions which will guide our policies and initiatives in the coming year. They can be found at https://nfb.org/2016-resolutions <https://nfb.org/2016-resolutions>

In President Riccobono’s banquet address, “The Understanding of Fear and the Power of Progress”, he spoke powerfully of the conditioned fear of blindness and what we can do, individually and as an organization, to move beyond it. Two passages brought this home to me.
"Regardless of how much training, experience, and confidence any blind person has accumulated, each of us encounters the negative impact of conditioned fears on a daily basis. By working together, we continue to remind each other that this space—the space that we create together—where we raise expectations, challenge our fears, and encourage each other to go further is the normal experience in a world where we minimize the unfounded fears about blindness. The challenge for us is neither the training nor our own internal confidence; it is the continued struggle against the impact of the conditioned fears of others. When we go out in the world, there is no way to avoid encountering the impact of the misconceptions about blindness. We must recognize the fear exists, prevent others from using it to control our lives, and find new ways to overturn those fears. This demands us to be firm but also loving with those who act with sincerity. It also demands that we face outright cases of discrimination with action. We must have the courage and the maturity to be honest about the difference. We must also guard against accepting second-class treatment out of convenience to ourselves. For example, each of us knows that the airport is one of the places where the conditioned fear of blindness is going to be in evidence. It is sometimes tempting, especially after a long and intense convention, to simply go along and not challenge the low expectations that others wish to force upon us—constantly asking us where we are going, trying to get us to ride the electric cart or not to ride the escalator, pushing and pulling us, insisting that we pre-board, offering to walk us down the jet way so we do not get lost, attempting to take our canes away, inviting us to stay seated in an emergency until someone comes to help, serving us drinks with a lid and a straw, and the list goes on. The decision for us is whether we choose to contribute to the conditioned fear of blindness by giving up control, or to work actively to eliminate the fears by using our full capacity. Each of us has the opportunity, and I would argue the responsibility, to take the unrestricted view of blindness and to spread it broadly through our actions. If we do not take control of it, over time it will slowly gain more and more power over us. This requires us to constantly review our own actions, challenge our own assumptions, carry our portion of the responsibility, and never settle for second best.”

"My brothers and my sisters, we are the masters of our own future. The power to make change and to cultivate hope is within each of us. We bond together in the National Federation of the Blind to face the uncertainty of the future, to challenge ourselves to expand the horizons, and to take ownership of living the lives we want. Society’s fears of blindness will not stop us. Facing our own fears will make us stronger. And the power of our unwavering love, hope, and determination will lead us through uncertainty to new heights. Let us break down the conditioned fears of others. Let us challenge ourselves to conquer the fears that stand in our way. Let us overwhelm fear with our unstoppable engine of hope. Let us build the National Federation of the Blind.”

 <https://www.nfb.org/>I had many other wonderful, memorable experiences at convention but I will stop for now.  I would like to hear from others about your experiences of the convention, whether you attended in person or listened to the stream. To those of you who have not attended an NFB national convention I would strongly recommend going to next year’s convention. Listening to the live stream and/or reading articles about it give you the accounts of what happened, but there is nothing like hearing hundreds of canes tapping on the hotel lobby floor or feeling the energy of 2,350 blind people in the convention hall. The 2017 national convention will be in Orlando, but a little later in July. Start saving your money now. Students…apply for a national scholarship. Never been to a national convention? Apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship early next Spring!

Marci Carpenter, President
NFB of Washington
First convention-1981

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