Barbara Cheadle, Panel Moderator
From the Editor: On Friday morning, July 4, the 2008 convention took official notice of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Barbara Cheadle, the retiring NOPBC president, chaired the panel that spoke about the division and what it has accomplished. Barbara spoke briefly and then introduced the panelists. This is what they said:
“Daddy said, ‘All children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.’” So said Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank. What are the right paths, and how do parents put children onto them? Well, when we teach our children to say “please” and “thank you,” we are putting them on the right path to becoming civil and thoughtful citizens. When we require our children to take out the trash, make the bed, and do other chores, we are putting them on the path to becoming self-sufficient people who will one day support themselves. When we require our children to say “I’m sorry” and to give back the toy they snatched from their baby brothers, we are putting them on the path to becoming moral people with a sense of right and wrong. But what happens when that child is blind? How are parents to know what the right paths are for that child, or even if there are any choices of paths to take? Many of you in this room were once blind children, and most of you had caring and loving parents who tried hard to teach you to be good people, and some of your parents even reached beyond the stereotypes of blindness of their generation to insist that you do everything that other kids did. But it is also true that, when it came to blindness, many–indeed perhaps most of you from my generation–had to find your own path to the Federation and the knowledge that it is indeed respectable to be blind.
Twenty-five years ago, at the NFB convention in Kansas City, Missouri, the NFB under the wise and caring leadership of President Kenneth Jernigan established the division of parents of blind children with the sole purpose of showing parents how to put their children on the right paths. And now, twenty-five years later, what can we say that we have accomplished? I have assembled a panel of three parents and two young blind women to speak to you today about their personal experiences and how the parents division of the NFB set them on the right paths.First to speak is Carol Castellano, vice president of the NOPBC since 1991, president of the POBC of New Jersey, author, and educator–her most important role has been mom to Serena Cucco. Here is Carol.