This is my final message to you as ACB's ninth president. It has been my honor and pleasure to have served you and to have worked with seven of my predecessors. In the spirit of those who have come before me as well as the many other founders of our organization, I have endeavored to provide proactive and principled leadership to you. Over these six years, I have worked to uphold the core principles of ACB's democratic tradition and to lead us to a better future both for the organization and for all blind people.
In these past six years, we can be proud to have maintained and strengthened ACB's name as a world participant and leader in the field of blindness. It was ACB who broadcast the 2004 quadrennial meeting of the World Blind Union from South Africa. In June of 2007, we broadcast the first Africa-wide Congress of the Blind. We have provided new and invigorated leadership to the North American-Caribbean region of the World Blind Union, and stood with the blind of the Caribbean region in support of meaningful improvement in that part of the world.
We have expanded the reach and coverage of ACB Radio, particularly with the creation of ACB Radio World, a channel devoted to worldwide affairs of blind people. ACB listenership has increased steadily on all of our channels, and we have steadily increased the quality and number of all our broadcasts.
In these past six years, we can be proud to have maintained and strengthened our position as the leading advocacy organization of the blind in the United States. We have advocated for the right of parents who are blind to raise their children without interference of local and state governments. We have advocated successfully, time and time again, for accessible ATM and accessible point-of-sale machines that allow all blind people to manage their financial transactions with privacy and dignity. We have advocated successfully for the right of the blind to cast official voter ballots with the same independence and privacy provided to our sighted counterparts. We continue to advocate for the right of Social Security recipients to receive information in the accessible media of their choice. We continue to advocate for the right of the blind to use our national currency as freely and independently as do our sighted peers. Never has ACB been more active in issues of advocacy than we are today.
In these past six years, we can be proud to have maintained and strengthened ACB's financial position. While we have certainly had some rough going these past six years, we stand on the verge of a new financial era for the organization. Our funding has been diversified significantly. Our thrift store business has been returned to a stable footing and is moving toward major growth in the next two years. We have reached out into the general community for long-term support of the organization. We have upgraded and modernized our financial processes both for how we handle finances within the organization and for how we seek to create new funding sources outside of ACB. Rather than removing money from our reserves or only maintaining their balance, we added $100,000 to those reserves in 2006, plan to add more again at the end of 2007, and have maintained a balanced budget while doing so.
It is difficult to find the best or even the right words with which to express my thanks and appreciation to all of the people who have been a part of creating this past six years within ACB. To name even the key people who have helped to make this happen is an even more daunting task. Quite honestly, words of thanks and appreciation are due to every member of this organization. Each and every one of you does something that grows into what is unquestionably the finest organization of the blind in our country. Whether you know what that may be or not, it is certainly the case. That's what grassroots organizations are all about, and that is the spirit of ACB which I have endeavored to protect, pursue and enhance these past six years.
Many have asked me to suggest what legacy I may have left the American Council of the Blind. While I appreciate the suggestion and the intended support such a suggestion is meant to provide, this is not for me to say. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years, others can render a decision on that, but only the passage of time holds an answer. What I can say is that ACB has grown and changed these past six years while maintaining and renewing its commitment to basic, grassroots democracy. We have significantly increased our reputation, and we have become known in the press of this nation as never before. We stand on the verge of a new-found ability to create major change for the blind of America. For me, that is legacy enough!
I look forward with anticipation to a new and equally active role with our organization. Precisely what that role may be is something to be defined with the next president of ACB. In the meantime, please know how much I have cherished serving this great organization, and how much I feel that each of you has played a part in our work together. Thank you all for who you are and what you do. Let us work in harmony with our 10th president and shepherd ACB into its next era of blossoming growth, success, and service on behalf of all blind people.
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