By Debbie Grubb
Today, I exercised my civil right to participate in early voting. I boarded a bus, with my guide dog, Kopper. I followed the long line of people, just like me, who felt that it was crucially important to vote our conscience. I spoke with the poll worker and received my ballot and sat down at the accessible ballot marking device. I opened the file in my Polaris in which I had noted my amendment, bond, charter and other choices. I put on the head phones, took the control in my hand and heard what everyone else saw on their ballots. In other words, I voted independently, in secret with the ability to verify my ballot choices before hitting the button which initialized the marking of my ballot.
As I left the polling place and headed back home with Kopper, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to all of the people who started us on this journey to freedom, the very necessary journey to liberty and equality for all. I thought about our forefathers, flawed as are we all, who sacrificed all of their fortunes to begin our country on its journey. I considered the abolitionists who with heart and courage cried out for the right for all of America’s people to be free. I thought of the people who gave their lives to keep our nation unified and to guarantee freedom for those who had been enslaved for far too long. I thought about the people who began unions at great personal risk so that there would be safe, work environments, fair wages and fair treatment for all of America’s workers and their precious families. I thought about the suffragettes both here and abroad who sacrificed so much to see that the right to vote was granted to women with all that that right means for us.
I thought about the leaders in the blindness movement who have done and continue to do so much in terms of access to a level playing field of opportunity in this nation for all of us who are blind and visually impaired who choose to take advantage of it. I rejoice in the reality that with hard work, grit and determination we were included in the magical world of technology. I thought of how that hard work and collaboration with major companies brought a whole world of information instantly and completely to me. I thought about how my iPhone had given me a key to unlock so much that before had been very difficult for me to find and learn from.
As I held Kopper’s harness in my hand and once again realized the freeing flying glory of working a guide dog, I remembered the pioneeers of the movement who stepped out in to the unknown, and took the first steps on the journey that now allows me to go where I want and do what I want with my choice of mobility aid, my fabulous guide dogs past and present. When I hold that harness and feel the pressure of the pull as I say the word “forward” I know that I am free and safe and autonomous.
I was very young when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. I remember the surge of joy and hope for a better future that I felt when I learned of its passage. When I heard Dr. Martin Luther King express his hope for his four little children that they be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, it was like a shot went directly to my DNA. It has been my goal to live Dr. King’s glorious hope for his children each day of my life. To some, it may appear that I have not always been successful, that is for sure; but I promise that I have tried.
During my years in college, graduate school and as a young teacher, I and those who shared my belief and hope for the future, saw some very hard times. But we tried with everything that was in us to do our part to make the dream of the Civil Rights movement of that time a reality. We spoke and wrote and lent a hand as we could. We had real hope, as do many who are young and just beginning their life journey, that we would soon get our country across the finish line to true liberty and equality for all. It is obvious that we were unable to do this. But we, and those who came before us, flawed as we and they were, and locked in a time and culture that was a product of the world in which we lived, tried valliantly to push the envelope, to make people see the world a little differently, to move people out of their comfort zones. And we are still trying. It is a journey that we along with all of you are still on today. May we push that envelope, may we stand up for the right, may we see how far we’ve come and know that many did their very best, gave their all, to move us a bit further on our laudible noble journey of true liberty and equality for all! And may we remain true to that laudible, noble goal!