A Grateful Tribute to a True Visionary

by Tony Swartz

On December 31st, our current president, Sue Lichtenfels, will complete her second term and as prescribed in our bylaws, will make way for our newly elected president, Chris Hunsinger. Before Chris assumes leadership, allow me a few paragraphs to reflect on Sue’s parting gift, a vision for PCB.

In the 2015-16 winter edition of this publication I wrote in my final president’s message, “What sets my heart at ease, what makes my relinquishment of the reigns of leadership so much easier is PCB’s great fortune; to have elected a new president with such remarkable potential. Beyond her intelligence, her talent in so many areas, her energy and enthusiasm, I believe that Sue Lichtenfels is a true visionary. I ask that you join me in welcoming her vision for PCB and that we all enthusiastically support and work to bring about that vision.”

There can be no question as to whether I was correct in my assessment of Sue’s potential, her intelligence, talent, energy, and enthusiasm, for they were constantly evidenced in all that she sought to accomplish. Her commitment to PCB was demonstrated by her willingness to take on the daily administration of the organization. While she recognized that taking on the organization’s administration is not usually the purview of a president of a staffed nonprofit, and certainly not what she personally preferred, circumstances made it necessary that she do so. To say that she took on her position as a full-time job trivializes the thousands of hours of her effort and her complete commitment and devotion to PCB.

Beyond carrying out the daily administration of the organization, editing of The PCB Advocate, overseeing the work of all the teams, developing policy positions, establishing and guiding the efforts of the Executive Team, she lived up to my expectations of a true visionary by attempting to revitalize our mission and to carve out a new vision for our organization. In my message, I went on to encourage the members of PCB to be open to her vision for PCB and enthusiastically support and work to bring about that vision. Our inability as an organization to support or even attempt to understand her specific vision of a new membership model as proposed in 2017 is where I believe that this organization has so terribly failed our president and perhaps doomed our future. I won’t rehash here the arguments in support and in opposition, but I must caution that it is absolute folly to ignore the growing ineffectiveness of our membership model.

Despite her disappointment in the organization’s decision to continue with the current membership model, Sue has encouraged us forward from that point by redefining our participation as members of PCB to that of peers, and our organization as a peer network.

So if we are peers, as one dictionary entry defines peers, we are Individuals of equal worth or quality with a shared aspiration. If we are members of a peer network, then we stand in mutual support of one another with common interests and goals. This vision, as Sue has laid out for our organization, offers us both assurance and challenge; the assurance and expectation of reciprocal support, and the challenge to care and strive beyond those circumstances and issues that are personal; a call to each of us to stretch ourselves to contribute our effort to a common vision for those of us with vision loss. So, though she steps away as our leader, she leaves us with a gift of a vision of our future, a gift we are free to choose to gratefully accept, or blindly discard. Though such an inadequate expression of gratitude, Thank you Sue!

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