President's Message: Presidential Potpourri

by Mitch Pomerantz

This month's column poses an interesting challenge given that while I'm writing just prior to the Memorial Day holiday -- a full six weeks ahead of the ACB 50th annual national conference/convention -- many of you won't read this until your return from that historic gathering. Such challenges keep me alert and looking forward to facing each day as your president. So, rather than focusing on a specific topic, I want to touch on a few items as we enter into summer.

Let me begin by indicating that ACB has hired a new director of development. His name is Steven Obremski, and he comes to us with over 20 years experience fundraising for several not-for-profit organizations, including the Guide Dog Foundation. Steve has an outstanding reputation as a fundraising professional and real-world knowledge of blindness and blind people. Steve's knowledge and experience are personal as he himself is blind. He will start his job on June 6th, and the board of directors has every confidence that he will be an outstanding addition to ACB's professional staff. Welcome, Steve!

I want to now put in a personal plug for what I believe will be a wonderful travel and educational opportunity. Under the able leadership of Sandra Sermons and Pam Shaw, chair and member of our international relations committee, respectively, ACB has entered into partnership with Road Scholar to offer an eight-day adventure to Madrid, Spain during April of 2012. This excursion will allow blind and visually impaired people, along with their family members (if desired), to gain a first-hand and hands-on look at one of the cultural centers of Europe. Thanks to our Spanish counterpart, ONCE, tour participants will get to touch and experience architectural models of historic landmarks, visit a number of agencies which provide valuable programs and services to blind Spaniards, and enjoy fantastic Spanish music and food. Donna and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary next March, and this trip will be our gift to one another. Come celebrate with us in Madrid in 2012.

On a very serious note, even though summer is here, threats to the way we live as independent blind and visually impaired people are hard upon us. Throughout the nation, state and local legislative bodies are taking meat cleavers to our programs and services: from public transportation and paratransit services to Medicaid and in-home personal assistance; you name it, it's being pared down or eliminated altogether. This is no time for complacency! I urge each and every member of a state affiliate where serious budget-cutting discussions are taking place to organize visits to your city councils, boards of supervisors and/or state legislatures to make the case that such cuts will only force more of us to increased dependence on other publicly funded resources. It may even drive many otherwise independent blind people to enter assisted living or other similar facilities. We are at a critical juncture in many parts of the country and we must act now to maintain our self-sufficiency.

As I conclude my second two-year term as ACB president, I'd like to acknowledge and thank the literally hundreds of volunteers who staff and chair the nearly 30 committees and task forces which do so much of the day-to-day work of the organization. I recognize that most of you have other significant responsibilities within your state or special-interest affiliates, and perhaps both. You may have job and family commitments which occupy another major chunk of your time and energy. Many of you are involved in community and/or church-related activities which further limit your availability to carry out the work of ACB. As someone with limited discretionary time myself, please know that I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you give on our behalf.

Regardless of whether I'm the president when you read this, the weeks immediately following the convention are when the president is thinking about filling positions on the aforementioned committees and task forces. Fresh ideas and new blood are always welcome and certainly necessary in sustaining and enhancing the efforts of those entities. If you are interested in being considered, please contact either the ACB office or me directly no later than Sept. 1. I can be reached by phone at (626) 844-4388, or via e-mail at

Ladies and gentlemen, the past four years have been the most challenging and personally rewarding period of my adult life. The American Council of the Blind is truly the greatest and most democratic organization of blind and visually impaired people anywhere. I am extremely proud of what ACB has accomplished over our 50-year history and believe absolutely that we will accomplish even greater successes in the years and decades to follow. Likewise, I hope that you share my pride and vision for ACB and our collective future, and that you will join me in seeing our shared vision to fruition.