While most Americans view Washington, DC, as a place where nothing gets done, the National Federation of the Blind views it as a place where our rights are to be exercised. We just completed our annual Washington Seminar where more than five hundred of our members walked the halls of power, sharing the authentic perspective of blind Americans.
This is a tradition that is well over forty years old and it represents a determined commitment within our organization for teaching blind Americans to be strong self-advocates. The seminar is a wonderful time when experienced blind leaders work with blind people who have just come to Washington, DC, for the first time. Our leaders help each new member of our delegation understand that they know more about blindness than any member of Congress, as they live it every day. When blind people travel from Alaska or Hawaii, or really any other state, they receive a welcome reception from members of Congress because they know that the name National Federation of the Blind means that their guests will be polite, well prepared, confident, and full of innovative solutions.
My favorite part is observing mentoring relationships that bloom in our Washington Seminar. Listening to the excited stories of navigating the halls of the House office buildings or getting a tour of our nation’s capital in between meetings reminds me of those who mentored me when I first came to the seminar in 1997.
With your support of our organization, you are investing in another generation of mentoring with the knowledge that it will be paid forward. This year’s first timers will be the mentors of the future and maybe one of them will even end up serving in the legislature of the United States.
When you read about our Washington Seminar, think of it not as our effort to influence the policies of the nation but rather as our commitment to continue to invest in mentoring, making it better for future generations of blind Americans, and representing the blind people who have not yet found the opportunity and training to realize that blindness is not the characteristic that defines them.
With love, hope, and determination,
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind