REPORT FROM SEMINAR APRIL 2012
THE LANGUAGE OF LEADERSHIP
GREETINGS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!
Skip and I and Leon and Suzanne Proctor are back from the NFB Leadership Seminar this past week end at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. If you are ever in that area, call the Center for a tour. It is the best and largest resource center for the blind, blind studies, history and the newest information. From the temBrook Library to the Jernigan Institute to the International Center for Braille and Technology, it is all right there. The programs developed and run from and through the Center benefit all the blind and those working with the blindness community in the name of progress.
As attendees at this Leadership Seminar, we all four had quite a variety of experiences and "take AWAYS" Leon used blindness techniques to use a chain saw, Skip tried the Blind Driver Simulator and Suzanne and I loved the literature at Independence Market and she even laughed at Skip's jokes! It was thought provoking and with Dr. Marc Maurer pushing our individual "best", we are on our way in Maine to continue to challenge what it means to be blind in Maine.
On the way down on the plane, I sat next to an engineer at a firm in our hometown. Since I knew a teeny bit about engineering (my Dad was a Civil Engineer), I asked him what type of engineering he did. Of course I thought his response would be electrical, mechanical or the like. But I learned a lesson in language from this engineer with four patents that started off my week end immersed in Federationism perfectly. He proceeded to explain to me that his job was to "imagine" and that he "got paid to dream!" He obviously loved his job and said that the economy had little effect on hiring more engineers and draftsmen who were willing to "talk in that same language of engineers who imagine and then try to put into practice. we engineers talk in a common language of mathematics and physics. With this shared frame of reference, we can understand and conceptualize the method to an end result." What do they get excited about? It surprised me to learn it is large plant energy generation products sold internationally.
But what he said haunted me. I had heard it before: imagining, conceptualizing and precise language that, when shared with the right people, generates excitement and produces large scale change! This past week end, Dr. Mauer spoke this language. I admit I don't know much of Dr. temBrroke's personal style. I am anxious to listen to the DVD I picked up about him. And I am also inspired to get out my audio version of "Standing Alone, Marching Together," which is the history of the blindness movement. However, I do know that Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was a master of specific and targeted language. Language that launched a personal and human rights movement. Dr. Jernigan's language sparked the dreams and hopes of us all and still do. One of my personal favorites is,"We know who we are and we will never go back!" I also know that Dr. Marc maurer has not only carried on in Dr. Jernigan's footsteps, but has expanded the dream of our movement that began in 1940. The great motivators of our times, like Tony Robbins, have nothing on Dr. Maurer and his capacity to Think Big! He imagines, conceptualizes and produces such undeniable object lessons as the blind guy climbing Everest or the blind driver maneuvering turns and obstacles at Daytona Raceway! Dr. Maurer not only seeks to push the edges of the public's perception of blindness, but he also realizes that it is an inside job within each blind person. He challenges each of us to think, dream and do and share. He is such a visionary man and it is an honor to have him as our NFB President and to be with him for a week end. It was a special honor for those of us from Maine to have an appointment with him in his office to discuss our affiliate's progress and goals. (more on that in the near future)
Finally, the most important characteristic I learned this week end from Federation history, leaders and discussion is the irony of our language. while each of us is on a personal journey to push our own limiting beliefs about ourselves, the most effective mind-changers among us do not use many sentences that begin with "I" or "My". The distinction is subtle but profoundly crucial in order to reach beyond and through the inner barriers of someone's life experiences as a second class citizen. These Federation leaders use "we" , "our","we will", "together","join us" and let's talk." Talk about what? And this is another leadership gift: asking questions and then listening. Another question might go a bit deeper and the answer a bit more time to listen to. But ask and listen we must. Everyone has a "story" and as we get beyond the story of the past, we assist one another to create the next story of the future for the blind. And the fewer sentences that are about ourselves and that begin with "I", the more room there is to welcome in others and their gifts that will continue to push the edges of potential and perception. I do not have any desire to drive, but I do want that "something" that says I can! Courage is contagious and I needed some courage. Dr. Maurer is an extremely visionary man and I am thankful to him and to Mrs. Maurer for their challenging encouragement.