No limits – that’s what should be ingrained in the minds of this year’s graduates of the Alabama School for the Blind and the Alabama School for the Deaf as they begin the next chapter of their lives, the president of the Alabama Power Foundation said during the schools’ recent joint commencement ceremonies.
This year’s festivities honored 18 high school seniors graduating from the two schools, which operate as part of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB). The diverse group included students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing.
In her remarks at AIDB’s Talladega campus to the two senior classes, their parents, school administrators, loved ones and special guests, Alabama Power Foundation President Tequila Smith used AIDB’s own motto – “Deaf, Blind, Limitless” – to inspire the graduates to even greater heights.
She challenged the graduates to stand up to those who would place preconceived limits on them.
“Today, I hope you are viewing the world – you should be viewing the world – as limitless. A place of limitless opportunities for you. A place of limitless horizons, open before you – a place where you can do whatever you dream of doing.
“Because you can do whatever you want to do,” Smith said.
Smith cited as examples two Alabama Power employees: Accounting Assistant Teresa Hendon, a 38-year veteran of the company who was born deaf and is a proud graduate of the Alabama School for the Deaf; and Carla Davis, a communications specialist and award-winning writer in Public Relations, who also is blind.
Smith noted how Davis is an advocate within Alabama Power encouraging the company’s leaders to fully recognize the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
“Carla knows we can do better,” said Smith, who described the company’s increased focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.
“We need people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse and unique talents and ideas,” Smith said. “We need that diversity if we want to reflect and understand our diverse customer base, and provide them with the services they expect and deserve.
“We also recognize our country’s history of systemic racism, and the long legacy of prejudice that has affected so many people,” Smith told the graduates. “That history of prejudice, ignorance and misunderstanding clearly extends to people who are blind and visually impaired, to the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I call on you to challenge the prejudices and the ignorance and the preconceived notions about the blind and the visually impaired, about the deaf and hard of hearing, about the deaf-blind and others who’ve encountered discrimination and social injustice,” Smith said. “I call on you to stand up and speak out when someone questions your abilities, when someone expresses their ignorance or has an honest and sincere misunderstanding about who you are and what you can do.
“Because you know what you can do. And the rest of the world needs to know it, too.”
Smith urged the graduates, as they make their way, to find opportunities to give back and support those in need.
“As you embark on your life’s journey, please know that you can use your power, your compassion, your extraordinary abilities, to do whatever is in your heart. But as you pursue your dreams, also consider what you can do to help those who are less fortunate than you are. Just as there are others, out there, who will be there to help you when you need it.”
She advised the graduates that, whatever path to success they take, they do it with kindness and caring, and with love for others.
“As you venture out to accomplish all the great things that I know you will do – as you challenge yourself, and as you challenge the status quo where it should be challenged – as you make your way and help make this world better, do it with love,” Smith said.
“Because we are all sisters and brothers, and we must work together – with compassion and understanding and with love – to make this a better place.”
Learn more about the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind and its multiple programs at https://www.aidb.org/.