At this writing, it has been exactly 30 days since I was elected as the 10th president of the American Council of the Blind. As I said at the time, being elected ACB president is both one of the greatest honors and one of the most humbling experiences of my life. ACB is the greatest organization of blind and visually impaired people anywhere, and I take my responsibility to lead this council very, very seriously.
Since Donna and I returned from Minneapolis, I have spent the bulk of my time finding and appointing qualified and committed members to sit on the well over 20 ACB committees. During the campaign, I said that ACB must become more inclusive and actively seek more members to serve in positions of leadership. The response to my e-mail and telephonic recruitment efforts has been gratifying. I have heard from upwards of 75 ACB members interested in participating on our various committees. Many are relatively new to the organization, and this interest and commitment, coming from such relative newcomers, is even more gratifying to me.
That's a quick glance over my shoulder at the first month; now, let me talk a bit about the future. It is my intention to see that each board member and every committee chairperson be accountable and responsible to the membership. What does this mean, you ask. First, here is what I expect from the elected members of the ACB board of directors.
In early August, we held a teleconference board meeting to address several important issues which I felt could not wait until our fall meeting. While there was certainly much spirited discussion, it lacked rancor and contentiousness. The discussion was objective and professional, which is what I expect from our officers and board members, and is what you should expect as well.
I also expect board members to be responsive to and communicate with the membership. Invite members of the ACB board to your conventions; ask them (and me) tough questions about ACB's future direction. By the time you read this, we will have conducted the initial post-convention "office hours" conference call. This will be the first of numerous regular opportunities you will have to ask the tough questions.
Here is what I expect from those appointed to chair ACB committees. I'd like each chairperson to establish goals and objectives for his/her committee (what will the committee accomplish?). There should be a regular meeting schedule in order to facilitate accomplishment of those goals and objectives. And finally, every effort should be made to involve all committee members in the activities of those committees. In short, my expectation is that people chairing ACB committees will oversee active, functioning, and goal-oriented committees. To do less would be to let down you, our members.
In my 20-plus years in ACB, I've learned that this organization is nothing without our grass-roots members. However, you, too, have a responsibility. You are responsible for ensuring that we in the leadership carry out your wishes and communicate honestly and openly with you. That's a big responsibility, but one which is crucial to maintaining ACB as the most democratic organization of blind and visually impaired people.
I have been tremendously encouraged by the outpouring of support I've received to date. The American Council of the Blind stands on the threshold of real greatness as the pre-eminent consumer voice of blind and visually impaired people. In the next "President's Message" I will outline my vision regarding ACB's position and role in the broader blindness community. That vision is based upon our abiding belief in the individual abilities and capabilities of blind people. ACB's influence continues to grow throughout the community with publication and dissemination of our Rehabilitation White Paper. ACB will develop and distribute position papers on other issues of importance to us (more on this next time). Until then, take care and spread ACB's positive message about blindness and blind people.
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