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-*Presented at the 1963 Annual Convention of the National Association for Retarded Children, Washington, D. C. October 26, 1963.-
Ten years ago the late Ray Graham, Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois, and one of the early and devoted friends of NARC among the educators, addressed our Fourth Annual Convention meeting in Chicago on the topic "Hold Fast to That Which Is Good."
A decade has passed since his eloquent speech and we have seen progress in the field of mental retardation far beyond the expectations of even the most optimistic among his listeners and with it our National Association for Retarded Children has grown to a position of unprecendented -sic- strength, and gained the respect and approbation of the Nation's leaders.
Yet as I come before you tonight to address you for the last time as your National Executive Director, I can think of no better theme than to reiterate Ray Graham's thoughtful and still timely counsel: "Hold Fast to That Which Is Good."
We are now riding a seeming crest of public support and acceptance, and I am often asked to what one can ascribe this phenomenal and indeed quite unique success of a voluntary association in so short a time. In my answer I always point to the very factors which in 1957 persuaded me to accept the call of NARC's Board of Directors: ours is an organization that from its very earliest, most humble and unpretentious beginnings was blessed with a national leadership that in farsighted wisdom, clarity of purpose and soundness in method is unsurpassed.
A common complaint heard with increasing frequency from our local, state and national leaders is: how can one possible keep up with all the new materials, books and articles and releases dealing with the many different aspects of the problem of mental retardation. Naturally this problem is yet more acute at National Headquarters, the central collection point for such materials from across the nation.
And yet during my years as your National Executive Director, I have from the very beginning seen to it that there was time for me to become acquainted with the history of our movement by perusing its early documents, so that I might hold fast to that which is good.
Some of you who took time out for some sightseeing in this beautiful Capitol city may have seen the building of the National Archives with its inscription: "What is past is prologue." The Archives of our Association are as yet only a simple filing cabinet but the treasures it contains from the early days of our Association's existence have proven time and again that they are an eloquent prologue of the future. If I have been able to serve you well as your Executive Director, it has been due to the guidance and the inspiration which I have gained from the words of our early leaders. And thus it is but fitting that on this occasion we remind ourselves of some of the statements that have served us well as beacons on our paths.
There is first of all, of course, the statement of purpose hammered out during the Convention in 1950 under the leadership of our first president, Alan Sampson and now incorporated in our Constitution. Would that everyone of our local associations once a year would take out time to have this statement of purpose read aloud at a general membership meeting to bring home the fact how far we still are from having met the challenge set by our pioneers in Minneapolis on September 29, 1950.
Along with this statement of purpose, I have read and reread many times the address of one of Minnesota's greatest governor's, Luther Youngdahl, whom we had the pleasure to welcome again at this Convention as a guest of honor. Just listen to what a great governor, a great statesman already saw so clearly on the very day our Association was born 13 years ago. This is what he said in his introductory comments:
"The point is this, ladies and gentlemen, the retarded child is a human being; above and beyond being a human being he is a child and for reasons for which neither he nor his family are responsible, he is retarded. He has the same rights that children everywhere have. He has the same right to happiness, the same right to play, the right to companionship, the right to be respected, the right to develop to the fullest extent within his capacities, and the right to love and affection. He has these rights for one simple reason ... he is a child, and we cannot discriminate against this child, deny to this child the rights other children have because of the one thing that neither he nor his family can help, because he is retarded. Whether he is in Minnesota or any other state in the country, or in any other country in the world, he is still a child but we have forgotten this and with rare exceptions throughout the country the provisions we have made for him are barbaric.
The retarded child has the right to social assistance in a world in which he cannot possibly compete on equal footing. He has the right to special education and to special institutions for the retarded child who cannot be taken care of at home. He has the right to be provided with the most modern training in an institution that is possible, in an institution marked not only by the pleasantness of its brick and mortar and lawns and play areas and educational services and child speciality and medical services, but by an atmosphere and by a group of people in attendance who will not only give that child patient understanding but to love and be affectionate to that child as other children get at home. He has a right to these things and his parents have a right to know that he has these rights. For they too are entitled to peace of mind about what is happening to a retarded child separated from them."