Forty Years and Thank You

Forty Years and Thank You

By Tom Scanlan

In 1974, the members of this great organization elected me treasurer, and then reelected me every two years since.  For those 40 years, I have been able to give back for so much that has been given to me by the National Federation of the Blind, both nationally and in Minnesota.

I attended my first NFB national convention when it was in Minneapolis in 1970.  I have often said that I didn’t come to the NFB; it came to me.  I have always been grateful that it did, and that I had the good sense to recognize it and take advantage of the opportunity.  An interesting-or-not historical note is that 900 people attended that convention, there were only three divisions (teachers, students, and vendors), and room rates were $7.50.  I have been fortunate enough to attend every state and national convention since 1970.

That 1970 convention changed my life, as NFB conventions have for so many blind people.  I wrote about that change for the 2006 Metro Chapter essay contest, and was honored to win.  I called that essay “The Luckiest Break of My Life,” and it was published in the Fall 2006 issue of this publication.

It is fair to say that my life before that convention was largely aimless and unhappy, despite a good education at the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School, a degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas, and a job as a computer programmer with the State of Minnesota.  I had the qualifications but lacked the self-confidence for a successful life that I wanted.  I lacked that confidence because I did not believe I could succeed as a blind person.  That convention showed me that other blind people had, and so could I.

But it also showed me that I couldn’t do it alone.  I got involved in the NFB of Minnesota, and that led to many activities and chances to give back for what NFB had given me.  Those included two terms as student division president, election as NFB of Minnesota treasurer, plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, a term on the Society board (much against their will), participant in the “Airline Wars” of the 1980s, editor of this publication, and many other things as the needs arose.

NFB also gave me many things in my personal life, especially marriage to Joyce (also in 1974), friendships and the confidence to progress in my career.

Dr. Jernigan said the two most important officers are the president and the treasurer.  State law also requires only those two.  I am happy to be able to fill one of those critical positions, and thankful to the past and present members who gave me the chance.

However, 40 years is a long time.  It is now time for someone else to take over and carry on, so I will not run for reelection this year.

The job of the next treasurer will be slightly different.  In 2007, the national office assumed responsibility for affiliate accounting and IRS reports.  This was to provide professional accounting, knowledge of increasingly complex federal and state regulations, assistance and advice to state treasurers, and uniform standards.  They exempted Minnesota because they felt I had the ability and experience to continue as we were.  I expect we will now join the others, and NFB fiscal services will assume much of what I have done.  The new treasurer will work with the NFB fiscal services accountants to make that transition and I will help in whatever manner is wanted.

I am not going away.  I will continue to do the other things I do, such as editing this publication and maintaining the website, as long as I am wanted.  My giving back is not done.

Again, thank you for the chance to serve in exchange for all you have given me in the life I wanted to live.