by Dan Spoone and Deb Cook Lewis
You say good-bye, and I say, “Hello.”
I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to our ACB members, staff, board and friends for giving me the chance to serve ACB over the past four years as your president. It has been the honor of our lives. Special hugs to Leslie for being my biggest supporter, loving partner and best friend through this journey. Our ACB family has been able to accomplish so much with our tenacity, flexibility and hard work.
When every other organization in the blindness field was wondering what to do with a worldwide pandemic, ACB stepped up with a unanimous board vote, deciding to hold an eight-day annual convention with general sessions, 108 breakout sessions, an audio-described tour channel, a virtual exhibit hall and an amazing banquet. In addition, our staff and members came together and created a Community Event platform to bring everyone together to combat isolation and fear. We taught each other the Zoom platform and we became experts in hosting, facilitating, and broadcasting community meetings. One year later, with the help of a special voting task force, and the support of our members, we amended our constitution to give all members the right to vote independently. We need to give a special “hip, hip, hurray!” to our ACB staff that continued to perform through the pandemic with the offices shuttered for three months and the financial challenge of raising money with the worldwide economy in a free fall. The work of Nancy Becker, ACB CFO, to apply for and receive over $900,000 worth of government grants through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Employee Retention Credit (ERC) programs for ACB have provided our members the services they so badly needed.
We held our inaugural Audio Description Awards Gala in 2021 with shout-outs from Jason Momoa and Kurt Warner. The second annual gala featured testimonials from Stevie Wonder and Ewan McGregor. We came back together in 2022 with our first hybrid ACB conference and convention in Omaha and energized our new ACB leaders with an in-person Leadership Conference with an amazing “Show Me The Money” inclusive accessible currency rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and Treasury building. ACB, WE DID IT!
I’m so proud of our ACB family. We spent some time at our most recent leadership meeting talking about change and learning to deal with the inevitability that change will occur. Life will continue to ask the question, “Who Moved My Cheese?” Our job is to be prepared for change and take the calculated risks to continue to move ACB forward. The latest major ACB change was the announcement that our transformative executive director, Eric Bridges, was accepting an opportunity to become the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Eric’s 15 years of experience at ACB will be a significant loss, but our ACB family will meet this challenge. We have an exceptional staff, board of directors, members and partners. I’m humbled to play a small role in the transition to a new executive director with the role of interim executive director. Our organization is in very capable hands with the ascension of Deb Cook Lewis to ACB president and Ray Campbell to first vice president. Deb and I have worked collaboratively over the past two years, and we look forward to a seamless transition over the next three months until our ACB officer elections in July. Now I would like to say “hello” to our new ACB president, Deb Cook Lewis. Hip, hip, hurray!
This issue of the Forum is all about the work and thoughts of our affiliates focused on teachers and students. And with respect to lifelong learning, I do find that the more I learn, the more there is to know. And so it is with the work of ACB. We’ve learned that our organization as a whole and individually can pivot to work through an array of changes and challenges and come out stronger with each turn, as Dan described. I’m looking forward to a great convention this summer in Schaumburg, which will be our primary focus during the next few months. Once new officers are in place, we will be initiating a nationwide search for our new executive director. Meanwhile, I totally appreciate the board’s wisdom in selecting Dan Spoone to serve us just a bit longer as our interim executive director. And I look forward to serving you and learning from you over the next three months as your interim president.
In addition to my transitional activities into being president, I also need to quickly transition out of some other responsibilities, including managing a significant portion of the convention logistics. Your patience will be much appreciated throughout this process. Succession planning and mentoring are all important in this process and will undoubtedly be one of the cornerstones as ACB continues to move forward.