by Mitch Pomerantz

In the December 2007 "Braille Forum," I wrote about the importance of visiting Capitol Hill as part of ACB's annual legislative seminar. As I begin my April column, we are a week away from the 2009 American Council of the Blind triple header: the midyear board of directors meeting, affiliate presidentsí meeting, and the aforementioned legislative seminar. All activities are taking place at the Holiday Inn National Airport Hotel, just outside of Washington, D.C.

I want to share my thoughts on why this gathering of affiliate presidents is so vital to ACB, now and in the future. My goal in writing about this year's presidentsí meeting is to whet the appetites of those affiliate leaders who chose not to come and in so doing, encourage those leaders to attend in 2010, perhaps at the urging of you the members of those affiliates.

Let's begin with the format and agenda. I need to point out that this meeting is definitely not restricted to presidents only. All three meetings are open to everyone; other affiliate leaders, as well as rank-and-file members, are more than welcome. The presidentsí meeting runs from 11 a.m. Saturday (following adjournment of the board of directors meeting), through noon Sunday.

Since taking responsibility for the presidentsí meeting agenda in 2008, it has been my intention to have a mix of program items focusing equally on presentations to assist leaders in strengthening their affiliates, and topics to inform attendees relative to the work of the national organization. Minus the specific times of presentations and the names of presenters -- which are subject to change -- here is this year's presidentsí meeting agenda (with commentary as necessary):

Saturday: Opening Remarks; Introduction of Participants; Obtaining Affiliate Convention Sponsorships; The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Fund-Raising (working lunch); Conducting a Successful State or Regional Leadership Development Seminar (panel presentation); Importance of Having An ACB Presence on State Rehabilitation Councils (panel presentation); How to Grow Your Own Website; Town Hall Meeting: Ask the Board of Directors. Sunday: All About ACB Radio (panel presentation); The ACB Walk-a-Thon; So You're the Affiliate President (topics including): Basic Parliamentary Procedure, What Should Come Before the Board, and Conducting Productive Board Meetings; Wrap-Up.

In listing the program items here, the emphasis this year is clearly on topics geared toward our affiliates. This is certainly appropriate given what I've written and said so many times during my presidency: the American Council of the Blind is only as strong as our 70 state and special-interest affiliates. As such, anything we can do to assist affiliate leaders in developing and growing those affiliates must be the primary reason for our yearly presidentsí meetings.

Something else I've mentioned once or twice is my strongly held belief that ACB is a family; granted, an extremely large and diverse family. While the national convention is our annual reunion, the presidentsí meeting and legislative seminar also serve as an opportunity for a significant number of the family to gather, share with and learn from one another, and just "hang out" for a few days. Everyone works very hard, but we also take the time to catch up with the other members of our family, so to speak.

Let's now jump ahead a week or so in order for me to offer some observations regarding the just-concluded presidentsí meeting. A total of 80 affiliate leaders took part in this year's get-together. The numbers were down slightly from 2008; understandable given the current state of the economy. Everyone seemed pleased with the content and format of the program, as well as with the presenters themselves. While there were a couple of minor glitches with the hotel (our first time at this venue), the consensus was that we would be well served to return next year.

I cannot emphasize enough my sense of pride in the outstanding quality of the presentations as well as in the high level of participation by attendees. In a way, this gathering serves as ACB's unofficial national leadership development seminar. As mentioned previously, one of the primary reasons for this meeting is to assist leaders in strengthening their affiliates. It is also essential that we provide some of the tools necessary for effective leaders to possess: the ability to motivate, a capacity for critical thinking, and facility in communicating openly and honestly. I sincerely hope you will be motivated to think critically and to communicate your interest in attending the 2010 ACB Presidentsí Meeting.

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