Sometimes We Live With History By Ben Partain

It occurred to me that we have lived in interesting times, which is all a person can ask for, I live with a piece of history, I’m very proud of her for so many reasons. She was a local celebrity way before I came on the scene, the first blind graduate of a Douglas County high school, the first blind student in so many colleges along our journey, the first in her family to attain a college degree, now let me tell you a story about another brush with history, one that’s literally several lifetimes ago.

It was spring of 1972, 8-year-old Rhonda Entrekin was a student at Burnett Elementary in Douglasville, Ga,. So many Braille pages were generated by the Atlanta Braille Project, an initiative that helped blind kids get their newspaper articles in a form they could read so they could speak about current events like the other kids. There was a buzz amongst the participants as then-First Lady Pat Nixon had just returned from China with her husband President Nixon and had met many disabled children with various challenges and disabilities, she was a fervent advocate of causes that at that time advanced the ability of special needs children to live more normal lives, enter little Rhonda Entrekin. She had been nominated by her school system to address Mrs. Nixon on her trip to Atlanta and when the little girl spoke so eloquently at such a young age the founders of the Braille project were floored, they had found the face and voice of their cause. Rhonda remembers being shy at the big event but well prepared to give her presentation along with Mrs.  Nixon’s warm embrace, she genuinely was drawn to little Rhonda. After her trip to Atlanta, the President began creating a foundation that became the cornerstone of the American with Disabilities act of 1990. The Nixon’s were champions of children and despite history having a different view of his administration, the couple touched one little girl as well as many others who aspired to learn and be included in the years to come later.

Pat Nixon III

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