Remarks at The Celebration, A Gala to Celebrate the Groundbreaking of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind

October 22, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil’s remarks given at the groundbreaking of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind

Speech delivered October 19, 2001. Posted on KurzweilAI.net October 22, 2001.

So, Dr. Maurer, the year 2006 for a handheld reading machine?

For those of you who were not at the groundbreaking ceremony

this morning, that was Dr. Maurer’s prediction.

That actually sounds about right.

I think you have a career ahead as a futurist.

But let’s see if we can do better.

With the help of the National Research and Training Institute for

the Blind,

why don’t we shoot for 2005?

I said 2004 this morning, but I’ve thought better of it since.

Let me share with you my perspective on today’s historic ceremony.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan had a dream.

Actually he had many dreams.

Growing up on a farm 50 miles from Nashville, Tennessee

in the 1920s and ’30s,

and aware of the ancient prejudices that limited the opportunities

for blind persons,

a young Kenneth Jernigan dreamed of getting an education,

and of growing up to make a contribution to society,

of making a difference.

Later, Kenneth Jernigan had a dream

of creating the world’s most advanced and enlightened

Commission for the Blind,

in Iowa,

where blind persons could learn Braille

and modern mobility skills,

a Commission that would make a difference.

Kenneth Jernigan had a dream

of taking a dilapidated building in Baltimore,

and creating an inspired National Center for the Blind,

where blind people from around the country

could come together to learn the skills needed

to compete on terms of equality,

a national center that would make a difference.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan had a dream

that the National Federation of the Blind,

the organization he had done so much to advance,

would find a worthy leader to succeed him,

someone with the leadership skills, common sense, and eloquence

to carry on the burden of leadership,

when he was no longer able to do so,

a leader who,

like himself,

would make a difference.

And finally, Dr. Jernigan had a dream

of building a National Research and Training Institute for the

Blind,

an institute that could develop and guide the development

of pocket sized reading machines,

of on-demand Braille production technology,

of GPS and pattern recognition-based navigation systems,

of automobiles that blind persons could drive themselves,

and of other adaptive technologies that we can hardly imagine

today,

a National Research and Training Institute for the Blind

that will make a difference.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was one of those fortunate people

to dream fantastic dreams,

and to see his dreams come true.

And we are equally fortunate

and blessed

to have had the opportunity to share in these dreams,

and in their realization.

Like Moses,

Dr. Jernigan was not able to see his latest dream,

the promised land

of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind

come to life,

but he died with the satisfaction and absolute confidence

that his last dream,

like all those others,

was certain to come to fruition.

He had that profound confidence

because he knew the limitless resolve

of the National Federation of the Blind.

Most of all, Dr. Jernigan was a teacher,

and his most important and everlasting lesson

was exactly this,

that with unbounded resolve and confidence,

Array