From the Editor: One of the highlights of convention is the presentation of various awards. Some are presented annually; others are presented only as often as the Federation determines that a truly deserving candidate exists. The Federation recognizes that a critical part of our mission is recognizing the work that is accomplished by and on behalf of the blind, and the audience takes as much satisfaction and joy in presenting these awards as the committees who bestow them take in finding worthy recipients.
presented by Carla McQuillan
Good morning. How is everybody this morning? Every year the National Federation of the Blind recognizes a teacher of blind students who has demonstrated performance above and beyond those of his or her colleagues. This year our distinguished educator has thirty-three years in the field. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Texas Austin. She has a national board certification in exceptional needs specialist for early childhood through adults. She has a certification in music, and here is what her colleagues say about Carolyn Mason: [applause] She never complains about her students or her workload. If she needs to learn a new skill to support her students, she will gladly learn it. If she has to put in extra hours, she will do so without complaint. She is calm and gracious under fire. In a few words, she is the ultimate professional.
But the thing that really endears Carolyn Mason to the National Federation of the Blind is that she served as Harley Fetterman's teacher from the time that he was three years old and first lost his vision until cancer took him in his senior year of high school. She encouraged Harley to learn Braille and taught him Nemeth Code for his advanced math classes. She encouraged him to compete in the National Braille Challenge and then decided that, “Why can't we just start a regional National Braille Challenge here in Texas so that more of the local students could participate?” And though it took a number of hours and effort on her part, without any compensation financially, she gladly did it for the cause.
We have here for her a plaque that has the National Federation of the Blind logo on it, and this is how it reads:
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF
For your skills in teaching Braille and other
alternative techniques of blindness;
For graciously devoting extra time to meet the needs of
your students, and for empowering your students to perform
beyond their expectations.
YOU CHAMPION OUR MOVEMENT.
YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES.
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS.
JULY 5, 2018
Please give a warm welcome to this year's distinguished educator, Carolyn Mason.
Carolyn Mason: Thank you so much. I’m very honored to be here. I'd like to thank the National Federation of the Blind for choosing me for this award. I'd like to thank Jan McSorley for submitting my name, and of course Beth Fetterman, who provided information and has been one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout our time together with Harley. Just, thank you so much; it's very amazing to be awarded for something you love to do. [applause]
presented by Dr. Eddie Bell
Good morning, Mr. President and fellow Federationists. It is my honor to again chair this committee. When I think of some of the most noble professions in the world, I'm hard-pressed to find one better than being a teacher. Giving the skills of literacy to children is one of the most important things that we have to do. The Blind Educator Award is designed to be given to individuals who are blind who have been able to get into the teaching profession. As noble as the profession is, it has too often barred entrance to blind people from participating in that. Through the work of the National Federation of the Blind, many pioneers have been able to be successful in that career, and the rewards just have continued to grow exponentially.
The recipient for this year, when I told the President whom we had selected, was very thrilled and reminded me that she was involved in 2004 at the very beginning of some of our STEM initiatives (science, technology, engineering, and math) in the creation of those programs and has worked with them ever since. She's been a leader in her state in working in the Braille enrichment programs. And in reading the nomination letter, it was pointed out that she is admired and revered amongst her colleagues at school, fellow teachers respect her, and parents love her. But what's most important is when you watch her interact with children, and the way they are engaged and the rapport they have is just phenomenal, and for many years now she has participated in this organization. Please help me in congratulating the 2018 Blind Educator, Robin L. House. [applause]
I'm going to ask Beth to read the language of the plaque as I present it to the recipient here. And I want to say in addition to my congratulations, you will be receiving this plaque; a check for $1,000; and most importantly the love, hope, and determination of all the members of your Federation family. Congratulations.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
Robin L. House
In recognition of outstanding accomplishments
in the teaching profession.
YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT,
YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES,
YOU BUILD THE FUTURE.
JULY 5, 2018
Robin House: Thank you very much. I am really honored to receive this award. Thank you for being nominated, thank you to the committee and the National Federation of the Blind. I've been a part of this organization for eighteen years, and I've had some amazing opportunities to work with blind youth, and I really appreciate all those experiences. I currently am a school counselor, and I work in the St. Louis public schools. The work is hard, it is demanding, but my passion is in educating the whole child, the whole person: their social, their emotional, their psychological, their academic, and their career interests. So I appreciate all of the support that I’ve received from the National Federation of the Blind, all my friends that help me keep my passion alive and keep growing throughout the years. I love being part of this organization. Thank you very much. [applause]
presented by Mary Ellen Jernigan
The Kenneth Jernigan Award is being presented this afternoon for only the third time since its establishment. Like the previous recipients, Daniel Goldstein in 2016 and Frank Kurt Cylke in 2011, this presentation recognizes significant contributions to the well-being of blind individuals that will endure well beyond our own lifetimes. The other common thread running through the accomplishments of these individuals is that their work has been done in solid and ongoing relationship with the National Federation of the Blind. Through those relationships and the cooperative work inherent in them, we each reach our common goals more quickly, and the results of each of our efforts are immeasurably magnified.
Indeed, Mitch Bainwol and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers he leads have a commitment to pedestrian safety that matches our own. The advent of quiet cars endangered the safety of all pedestrians, but it also did something profoundly and insidiously damaging to the blind: it threatened the proven tenants upon which the entire system of safe and independent mobility for blind individuals is based. But together with the alliance we have faced that challenge and removed that threat. [applause]
With the issuance of the regulation implementing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, the techniques used by blind individuals to engage in safe and independent travel have been recognized and are now protected in the law. [applause, cheers] The three key provisions of this regulation that mattered to blind people: 1) that cars emit enough sound to be heard at all speeds; 2) that this level of sound be emitted at all times the engine is turned on, whether the car is moving or not moving; and 3) that the sound-generating system cannot be turned off at any time by the driver. [applause]
These provisions would not have survived the long years of study and negotiation without the staunch support of the alliance. Over and over Mitch Bainwol and the organization he leads joined us in insisting that the capacity of the blind to engage in safe and independent pedestrian travel be protected. And they backed up that commitment by taking concrete and public actions aimed toward achieving that end by endorsing the Quiet Car Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and later by issuing a joint letter to recommend implementation of what became known as the quiet car rule, which established minimum sound requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles.
The opening text of that joint communication reads as follows: “The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, and the tens of thousands of members of the National Federation of the Blind have a long history of working together to help identify and implement ways to help all Americans, including blind Americans, navigate safely around motor vehicles.” Here I am moved to express the gratitude of the National Federation of the Blind to the alliance for working with us in what we have come to view as the ideal model for working in collaborative rather than adversarial ways to solve problems that might initially seem to have competing interests. I also note with gratitude that neither we nor the alliance regard our work together as finished. We are already working collaboratively to address the promises and perils looming ahead when, like the horse, the human driver is replaced by something incredibly more efficient.
With autonomous vehicles now approaching on an increasingly shortening horizon, the Alliance cohosted an autonomous vehicle summit at the Jernigan Institute. At this conference, attended by disabled consumers, automotive industry representatives, ride-sharing providers, staff of elected officials, and policymakers at multiple levels of government, Mitch Bainwol made the following statement on behalf of the Alliance: “We are motivated by the tremendous potential for enhanced safety for everyone and the opportunity to provide greater mobility and freedom to people with disabilities. We are anxious to work with stakeholders and government leaders to develop the policy framework to realize these benefits as soon as we can.”
Well, Mr. Bainwol and members of the alliance, we are anxious, too. [applause] And we can think of no better partners to work with to make sure that when the fully-autonomous vehicles arrive, they will be fully accessible through fully nonvisual systems. [applause] We can think of no better way to express our gratitude, our trust, and our excitement for the future than to bestow upon you and your organization the award that bears the name of Kenneth Jernigan, who had unbounded faith in the unlimited future that could be created through the joint effort of individuals and organizations working together in love and trust to create that future.
So it is with enormous pleasure that I make this presentation which reads as follows:
KENNETH JERNIGAN AWARD
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
For your dedication to the highest ideals;
For your commitment to extraordinary partnership;
For your leadership in expanding access to transportation
and ensuring safety for pedestrians;
We, the organized blind movement, confer upon
and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
The Kenneth Jernigan Award
YOU HAVE MET EVERY CHALLENGE;
YOUR COMMITMENT TO SAFETY IS UNMATCHED;
YOU ARE A TRUSTED PARTNER AND A VALUED FRIEND.
July 8, 2018
[NFB logo on the left]
Mitch Bainwol: I just want to say thank you very much. I'm really touched. This is also very heavy [laughter]. I just want to say that we have a great journey into the future, and I'm so pleased we are on this journey together. Thank you very much.
presented by Pam Allen
Thank you so much, Dr. Maurer. What an incredible and inspiring banquet address from our President this evening. [applause] I'm so proud to serve and to be a part of that legacy in our Federation family.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." We in the National Federation of the Blind have worked diligently to turn the dream of global access to information into a reality. We have believed in this future and tirelessly worked together to achieve this fundamental right and to open new doors of opportunity in learning and literacy for the blind.
Fortunately, our dream of global access has been shared. We found a partner and true champion; someone who is willing to listen, to advocate, to educate, and to fight until the goal of literacy for all is achieved. Earlier today we heard about the many accomplishments of this most deserving individual, whose commitment to excellence has resulted in far-reaching changes and allowed access to thousands of published materials previously unavailable.
Under Dr. Francis Gurry's dynamic leadership and expert guidance as director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, access to information across borders was transformed from a distant dream first articulated in 2009 when the concept was proposed to the reality of the Marrakesh Treaty adopted only four years later and soon to be ratified here in the United States. [applause]
Dr. Gurry has demonstrated a steadfast and proactive commitment by promoting the Marrakesh Treaty at all levels: sponsoring informative seminars, forming partnerships, and working with governments around the world. There are numerous examples of the important work Dr. Gurry has done to further the Marrakesh Treaty and access for all. To highlight one initiative, he established and secured funding for the Accessible Book Consortium.
We cherish the true friend we have found, and we are energized by the possibilities our continued collaboration will create together. In recognition and appreciation of his exemplary leadership and unwavering commitment to achieving access to information for all, it is my sincere pleasure to present Dr. Francis Gurry with the Global Literacy Award. [applause]
This beautiful crystal plaque has our logo on one side and includes the following text on the other:
GLOBAL LITERACY AWARD
OF THE BLIND
For your commitment to making
the world’s literature available to all;
For your dedication to accessibility for the blind;
For your imaginative leadership in eliminating
the barriers to sharing equal access across borders;
We, the organized blind movement, confer upon
THIS GLOBAL LITERACY AWARD.
In recognition of the significant leadership
of the World Intellectual Property Organization
in making a worldwide book treaty
for the blind possible.
You have facilitated effective sharing
of accessible, published works around the world.
You are a true friend of the blind
and a champion for literacy.
July 8, 2018
[NFB logo on the left]
Congratulations and thank you.
Dr. Francis Gurry: Dear friends, I am truly humbled by this award, and Pam, thank you so much. You have given an overly-generous assessment of the very modest contribution that I personally have made. It's you who did the Marrakesh Treaty. You were the origin of it, the National Federation of the Blind was the origin with the World Blind Union of the idea of the Marrakesh Treaty. You have driven us, you have had wonderful, wonderful negotiators. It was your time, Dr. Maurer, during which the treaty was concluded. It is President Riccobono's time during which the treaty will be ratified by the United States of America, and that is an event that the whole world is waiting for. I thank you all for your inspiration, and I thank you all for all that you have done in giving birth to this great treaty, which I hope will make a really worthwhile contribution to global access. Thank you so much. [applause]
presented by Dr. Marc Maurer
Each year we have a committee that comes together to discuss the work that is being done by our own members. We think about our first President when we begin to plan this, because the award that we give for the internal work that is being conducted in our organization by our own members is reflective of the commitment of our first President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, and we name our award after him.
Dr. tenBroek began by having an idea. When he invited people to join him to create an organization, he did not have substantial financial resources to support it. He did not have a family connection that would build for him access to the people who might help to change the nature of the society in which we live based upon an idea. What he had was a thought that if he brought blind people together, that something might be done to change the society in which we live. Now many people at the time thought that blind people represented a number of folks without a future, and if you take zero and add it to zero, what you get is zero. It doesn't matter whether you add a hundred or a thousand zeros; it still comes out to zero.
Dr. tenBroek knew that that wasn't the case. He knew that in his own life things had been achieved that many thought could not be. He had written law journal articles. He had been in college and got diplomas. He had found a way to do some teaching, mostly of sighted people, but now and then of blind people too. He had inspired other people to go to college other than himself. He had dreamed that there could be something bigger than he was, and he created the National Federation of the Blind along with the help of many others.
So tonight we have a presentation to make to a person who has much the same sort of spirit, a person who's been long in the National Federation of the Blind, has taken some leadership positions (especially lately), but has mostly supported others in leadership rolls. And while we're on the subject, tonight we make our presentation of the tenBroek Award to a woman of the movement.
I want to invite Joy Harris [applause, cheers] to the podium. Joy has recently been president of our Alabama affiliate. [applause] She is no longer, that position now being held by Barbara Manuel, who was elected this spring.
Joy and Allen Harris moved to Alabama after Allen had come to be unwell, and they wanted to be closer to family. Joy and Allen got there, and Joy thought, ‘We have a noticeable lack of leadership and unity in Alabama, and I am going to do something about it!’ [applause]
So after a time she became the president of our Alabama affiliate, which had been off and on a troubled affiliate. And it came to be unified with her in the principal office. And it came to represent people of different races. There had been those who wanted it to be all one color or all the other, and Joy said, ‘I'm not having it. [applause] Everybody's welcome, and I mean everybody's welcome. You just come, and if you want to be a part of this organization, here you are. You can join it; you can participate fully.’
Now prior to her being a leader in Alabama, Joy was mostly a supporter of Allen Harris, who has been a leader of ours for many decades. He has served on the board, he's been president in Michigan, he has been treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind, and one of the people who would always be there to help him and to make sure that things were done as they ought to be done was Joy Harris. So you represent a human being with two leadership characteristics that do not often go together. One of them is that you know thoroughly how to support somebody else in a major leadership role, and the second is if that's not going to happen, you know how to do it yourself. [applause]
Consequently, tonight I have this plaque, which says:
JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD
FOR YOUR DEDICATION, SACRIFICE, AND COMMITMENT
ON BEHALF OF THE BLIND OF THIS NATION.
YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS MEASURED NOT IN STEPS, BUT IN MILES,
NOT BY INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES BUT BY YOUR IMPACT
ON THE LIVES OF THE BLIND OF THE NATION.
WHENEVER WE HAVE ASKED, YOU HAVE ANSWERED.
WE CALL YOU OUR COLLEAGUE WITH RESPECT.
WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.
JULY 8, 2018
Joy Harris: [near tears] Thank you. I hardly know what to say, seriously. This is such an honor for me, just totally unexpected. I joined the Federation about forty-six years ago. Somebody told me to come to a meeting. I said, "I don't know; I'm busy..."
They said, “No, Joy, you've got to come to this meeting." I went to this meeting, and I heard people talking about blind people being equal and being first-class citizens—all the things—you could be what you wanted to be. I thought, Wow, I really kind of like this. People were getting a little rowdy; of course I'm a rowdy person, so I fit right in. I was elected ombudsman. I had no idea what that was at that point, but I was elected anyway, and I haven't left since. I'm just so proud of this organization.
When Dr. Maurer handed me this award though, I kind of laughed because Allen did receive the tenBroek Award, and he was holding it way up there, very proud. Well somehow the award got left, and he was holding up a plaque with a pineapple on it. [laughter] So anyway, I truly, dearly love the Federation. When I am called, I will definitely be there. It's been a major, major part of my life, and as long as I'm here, I will be with my Federation family, and I hope this will continue on for many years. Again, thank you so much. [applause, cheers]