Braille Monitor                                                                                                 August/September 2004

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by Kevan Worley

Kevan Worley
Kevan Worley

From the Editor: On Friday afternoon, July 2, Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, and newly appointed chairman of the Federation’s Imagination Campaign, came to the podium to announce the organization’s fundraising program for the months and years ahead. Replacing both the Associates program and the capital campaign, the Imagination Campaign will focus fundraising efforts within and beyond the organization. Announced by pealing bells, Kevan delivered his rousing speech and periodic progress reports throughout the convention. This is what he said:

“We have dreamed, we have planned, we have built; now we devote ourselves to a future full of Imagination.” That is what the back of the program said at the grand opening of our National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute on January 30, 2004. Of course the National Federation of the Blind has always sparked our imagination. When we think back over the sixty-four-year history of this wonderful and dynamic Federation of ours, it is amazing to contemplate just how far we have come. It has taken the imagination, determination, and love of thousands and thousands of blind and enlightened sighted people for generations to bring us to where we are today.

Today we are on the brink of a revolution, and with your help and with the support of our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues the National Federation of the Blind will again change the world. In the beginning blind people could only imagine that basic needs might some day be met. Later the imaginings and concerted efforts turned to basic civil rights, acceptance on terms of equality, greater educational opportunity, and more and better jobs for the blind. Then it was on to access technology and information, from scanners and screen readers to NFB NEWSLINE®—projects which were just imaginings at first but now are part of the daily lives of many. We have worked to mainstream Federation dreams. And always we have made progress--progress through innovation, progress made possible by our understanding of and commitment to a dynamic and living philosophy—a philosophy which we cherish and gladly share. We share it because we know it has changed tens of thousands of lives. It is the philosophy that changes what it means to be blind.

As we imagine an even brighter future for blind people, as we take the steps necessary to create that future and move forward to meet it together, we are mindful of all we have achieved. We are also mindful of and focused on what we the blind must still achieve: basic needs, still, for many; civil rights; jobs; timely and truly equal access to information and technology; and full and complete acceptance in society. We have made much progress together, and we dare to dream even bigger dreams because we are one diverse and dynamic, united organization--the National Federation of the Blind, truly a grass roots organization of chapters, state affiliates, divisions, special interest groups, and networks. We have a fully equipped, state-of-the-art National Center for the Blind, staffed by caring, talented, and energetic people. We have been and continue to be richly blessed with highly intelligent, gifted, articulate, caring, and dedicated leadership. This Federation of ours is an organization which has always been and continues to be characterized throughout by imagination, unwavering determination, and love.

A number of years ago, springing from the keen intellect and inspiration of our great leaders Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and President Mark Maurer, we all began to imagine a new institute which we would build, an institute we would infuse with the spirit, generosity, and love of the National Federation of the Blind. We would build a training and research institute based upon the collective experience of real blind people, an institute that would further our collective vision through an exciting array of research and training programs inspired, imagined, invigorated by the blind ourselves. Never in the history of the world had this been attempted before. Our individual and collective imaginations were sparked, kindled, impassioned. We all began to imagine, to dream, to work to raise the money, and to build.

Now we have built a world-class facility. We raised the money to build this new building, this edifice of imagination, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. NFB Jernigan Institute—I love the sound of it, don’t you? And I love to imagine what we will accomplish through it. I love to imagine its magnificent purpose, potential, and power. Innovative research programs from social research to new technologies, research which will be inspired, guided, focused, and supported by all of us. Training and education programs for blind children, blind job seekers, blind scientists, blind seniors, blind parents, lawyers, teachers, and maybe even blind merchants.

This is our Institute. This training will be developed, informed, and taught by us, for us. Imagine, just imagine what we will be able to accomplish. The Institute will be an extension of our organization, our philosophy, our beliefs, our passion, our commitment, and our dreams. We will dream up new technologies. We will conduct social research that will help blind children more effectively integrate on terms of equality in school and community. We will do the research to make the transition from sight to blindness more tolerable, more comfortable, and more supported for our blind seniors. We will dream up techniques to help blind people get and keep employment. We will develop new partnerships that will change the world in truly significant and magnificent ways, not only for blind people, but for all of humanity. We will; if we imagine it, if we dream it, if we do the hard work. We always have in the past, and we know we will again.

This past January many of us were able to attend the gala grand opening of our new Institute. There we heard Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, recently appointed executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, and our president, Dr. Marc Maurer, speak of their hopes and dreams for our new Institute. That glorious and symbolic evening of achievement and celebration marked the finish of our successful capital campaign, so necessary to build the building. And with great flourish and fanfare, appropriate to such a historic occasion, we embarked on a new era. That evening we also began a new and vitally important fundraising effort. On that historic night we established the Imagination Fund. The purpose of the Imagination Fund will be to launch and establish the programs we imagine at our new Institute. Some of the money raised will be available to state affiliates. Some of the dollars can be targeted to make possible activities at the grassroots level: Federation projects, seminars, and other programs. Many of these targeted dollars can be spent on collaborative and innovative projects—NFB state affiliate/NFB Jernigan Institute partnerships. What an exciting time we are entering!

Fellow Federationists, our goal is to raise at least one million dollars before the time of the next convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, during the summer of 2005. As Dr. Zaborowski said at the grand opening, “If we can get 1,000 people to contribute $1,000 … .” But, friends and colleagues, what we really need is for everyone from throughout our great movement and beyond to give what they can. We’ll do it the way we’ve always done it, by asking each and every one of us to dig deep to fund the future. And we will learn from the lessons of our other campaigns: our Associates program and our capital campaign.  We must and will increase our effort to reach beyond our Federation family to our individual families and friends, neighbors, and associates to ask them to help us change the world.

We must all give what we can, but we need something else; we need everyone who is able and willing to help us build an Imagination Fund donor base from people you know and people who know you. Those who know you from your family, church, community, school, fraternal organization or workplace are likely to want to help you build a better world for you, other blind people, and the blind of generations to come. If we can reach them with our Imaginative message, our history tells us they will offer their support, their ideas, and their contributions. We’d like to mail Imagination Fund and NFB Jernigan Institute materials directly from the National Center on your behalf, on our behalf, explaining what we do--educating our families, friends, and associates about our philosophy and programs, and inviting their participation, contributions, and support.

From the proceeds of the grand opening and additional contributions, we’ve already built a fund of a little over $180,000 coming in to this convention here in Atlanta. What a great, great start. Thank you, thank you to all of you who have already contributed. Thank you to all of you who have already talked to your families and friends and colleagues. Thank you to all of you who gave to help us build the building during our highly successful capital campaign to “Build It Now.” Now that we have built it, we must fund the programs which will change the world.

We have an Imagination Fund table, which will be open throughout this convention.  You can go there to make donations and pledges to the fund. You can go to the table to give us lists of people you know to whom we can then send materials. If you don’t have lists with you, give us your name and contact information; we will contact you after convention to get your Christmas card list or client list, family reunion or class reunion lists--whatever you feel able and excited to provide. At the table you can pick up material to use in this effort. You can ask questions about the Imagination Fund and our new Institute, and you can give us your imaginative ideas and make your contribution. President Maurer has appointed an energetic Imagination Fund Steering Committee, and we are already hard at work in true Federation fashion. However, we need each state president to identify and appoint an Imagination Fund point person or coordinator from each affiliate. Please tell us at the Imagination Fund table or get in touch with me after convention to let us know who your state’s Imagination Fund spark plug will be.

Fellow Federationists, do you have friends and family who you believe will help us raise more than a million dollars? Can we do it? Of course we can! From the beginning we have done the hard work to change what it means to be blind, and we have dreamed of brighter days. As Dr. Jernigan used to say, “Of drudgery and dreams.” My brothers and my sisters, “We have dreamed, we have planned, we have built; now we devote ourselves to a future full of imagination.” Thank you.

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