by Mitch Pomerantz

While this is being written in early June, most of you won't read this until after our 47th annual convention in Louisville, Ky. The convention will mark my first year as ACB president and as such, this seems an appropriate time to take a brief look back over the preceding 12 months and share a few thoughts with you. In doing so, I'll save the discussion of ACB's numerous successes for the next two columns which will be taken from my report to the membership Sunday evening of the convention. Instead, I'd like to focus on more personal observations about this past year and the overall state of the American Council of the Blind.

Initially, let me acknowledge and thank everyone for your kind words and active support since last July. You have demonstrated -- as you have so many times before -- that regardless of how competitive the various races for ACB office may have been, once elections were concluded everyone came together to work cooperatively to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people. Without exception, I've experienced wholehearted support from the board of directors, affiliate presidents and rank-and-file members, whether they previously voted for me or not. Those of you who I've called upon for assistance in taking ACB in a new direction have responded without hesitation. I will ask many more of you to become involved in the vital work of our organization during the year to come and I know that the response will be similarly positive.

One of the things I have truly enjoyed as president -- and previously as a board member -- has been the opportunity to attend state affiliate conventions. For me, the best part of attending these gatherings has been the chance they offer to meet members who don't normally attend national conventions. Since last July, I've sat with a group at the North Carolina convention playing Bingo. Although I didn't win a single game, I had a wonderful time and met some fine folks. At the Mid-Atlantic Regional Convention, I participated in the fund-raising auction where I bid on and won a Victor Stream. Again, I met a lot of great people who, for whatever reason, can't make it to our national conventions. At the New Mexico convention, Donna and I had lunch with an enthusiastic group that, after starting up a chapter a year earlier, was hosting the state convention. As they say, travel is broadening.

Another personally rewarding experience over this past year has been the hosting of office hours, the semi-regular opportunity for everyone and anyone to engage in a dialogue with me and at least one other member of the board to discuss whatever they choose to bring up. I've learned much from these interactions and participated in some thought-provoking discussions. I must mention here that perhaps half of the program content for this convention was suggested by callers during one office hours devoted specifically to gathering such ideas. These calls will continue and I hope to hear from even more members in the months to come.

Another enlightening experience for me has been my participation on ACB's two active lists: Leadership and ACB-L. While only a relatively small percentage of our membership is subscribed to these lists, it has provided me with another chance to find out first-hand what the members (and a few non-members) are thinking and feeling. On occasion I've responded to a particular thread, although I have refrained from some of the more political discussions for obvious reasons. What this give-and-take demonstrates is that the free exchange of views on a wide variety of blindness-related topics is one sign of a healthy ACB.

It has been tremendously gratifying to hear from so many of our members who have rediscovered their commitment to, and pride in, the American Council of the Blind. Granted, much of this renewed commitment and pride has resulted from our achievements over the last year. There is nothing so powerful in rekindling one's belief in ACB as successfully challenging both the Social Security Administration and the Treasury Department in court; gaining access to our personal credit histories through negotiated settlements with the three major credit reporting entities; and getting the attention of a key Congressional committee in our efforts to achieve total access to consumer electronics and the Internet. I'd like to believe, however, that at least some of this renewed pride in the American Council of the Blind is grounded in our rededication to the democratic principles which the founders of this organization worked so hard to establish back in 1961. Whatever the reason for this turn-around, it's most definitely a positive step forward. But, to paraphrase that old saying, we have miles to walk before we sleep. So, let's keep walking.

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