National Convention Report

By Maurine Barcelo, NFBC Treasurer

This year our national convention was once again held in Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike last year with the weather feeling like a steam bath, the weather was quite nice. There were 2,285 Federationists in attendance at this year's convention, and of those 98 were Californians. We did miss Jim Willows, immediate past president, and board member Sybil Irvin, who could not attend. Many first-time conventioneers like Ethel Brandon from Los Angeles and Pat Whisman from Oceanside experienced a life-change by attending.

There was plenty to do and accomplish at this year's convention. Over 30 Californians helped at the California table in the exhibit hall. All Braille jewelry was sold. Other items sold at the table were candy, Whozit buttons and raffle tickets. For the first time, the NFBC board convened an official meeting during the national convention to discuss financial and other matters. The board decided that president Nancy Burns would present a check for the general fund in the amount of $30,000 and another check for $10,000 for the Capital Campaign.

The National Orientation and Mobility Certification Board was established at Louisiana Tech with a strong NFB base. There are now several orientation and mobility instructors working in California who receive their certification from the NOMCB.

A Californian, Paul Price, president of the North San Diego County chapter, was elected as president of the Diabetes Action Network on the national level. Paul also serves as president of the DAN of California and is a member of the NFBC board of directors.

Both old and new friends gathered at the convention. One of our old friends, Cari M. Dominguez from the Equal Employment Opportunity Council, has returned as commissioner after a 10-year absence. She asked all Federationists to assist her by giving her some ideas in the areas of accessibility and the hiring practices of employers. Another old friend came from the other side of the world. Kua Keng Hock, president of the Independent Society of the Blind of Singapore, told us that for the first time in that country, a Braille reader was able to take an exam in Braille for a second language and pass. The government had not allowed any student who was blind to take the test in Braille before. He also invited anyone interested in teaching blindness skills to come to Singapore, as there is a severe shortage of teachers. Hock has been to our national convention before but expressed excitement about the future for the blind in his country and the relationship between the two organizations. In addition to Singapore, these are some of the countries that were represented: New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Grand Bahamas, Japan, Turkey, India, South Korea and Sweden.

I believe one of the biggest things to happen at our national convention was the opportunity to read and look at the new book "Touch the Universe," the first science book in Braille with raised drawings of the planets, etc. One of the instrumental factors in bringing the book about was NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Goddard brought many of its blind scientists and engineers to the convention for the first time, and it will probably not be the last. This new friendship between the NFB and Goddard is an exciting step in the field of science. In the summer of 2004 the first science camp for the blind will be offered at the new NFB Research and Training Institute, and Goddard will play an important role in the camp.

Conventions are not always meetings and work. I attended the annual play presented by the students of the NFB Louisiana Center for the Blind. The Center's play usually has a blindness theme. This year's play was about a girl who was going blind. It chronicled the obstacles she faced and the insights she gained.

Another fun activity was the music division's "Showcase of Talent." Adults and children participate either by singing, playing and instrument or both. However, I did not see any Californians at the showcase, and I know we have talent in California. This year Kentucky put on a Bluegrass Ball. The dance floor was filled with dancers; just ask Juliet Cody, president of the Beach Cities chapter, who was dancing up a storm.

The banquet is always the highlight of the national convention. This year at the banquet, lady luck graced Californians. Tiffany Manosh won a Voice Mat valued at over $1,900. Caroline Rounds, High Desert chapter president and NFBC second vice-president, walked away with the largest scholarship awarded. She received the $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship and $2,000 of screen-reading products from Korowai, Inc.

Whether this was your first convention or your 48th straight convention-like senior national board member Donald Capps-it was a great convention. UPS workers provided hours of volunteer time. We also appreciate the assistance from our corporate sponsors: Bank of America, IBM, Microsoft, Freedom Scientific, Blind Low Vision Group, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Micromedia and Marriott Worldwide Reservations. To those of you who could not make it to the 2003 national convention, we hope to see you next year in Atlanta.

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