[AI] The blind diplomat

dr.u.n.sinha narain drunsinha at gmail.com
Sun Jul 8 15:58:33 EDT 2007

i met mr. rabby. i saw his capacities, when i met him in lucknow.
since he is transferred from india, i could not contact him, as i do
not have his e mail now. my questionis the gentle man is so qualified
but why he has not married? is it general blind problem everywhere?

On 7/8/07, Geetha Shamanna <geetha at millernorbert.de> wrote:
>      The Saturday Profile
>                  A U.S. Diplomat With an Extraordinary Global View
>      By [4]MARC LACEY
>      PORT OF SPAIN, [5]Trinidad
>      AS chief of the political section at the American Embassy here for the
>      last two years, Avraham Rabby has had the job of surveying Trinidads
>      political landscape for Washington.
>      The fact that he has not actually seen the Caribbean island or any of
>      the places on five continents where he has been posted has not stymied
>      him.
>      I necessarily listen more than a sighted person would, he said. If Im
>      walking along a street, I can tell there is a building next to me
>      because of the echoes of my feet or my cane. A blind person sees the
>      world differently from a sighted person. Our impressions are no less
>      valid.
>      Mr. Rabby, who lost his sight at the age of 8 because of detached
>      retinas, is the State Departments first blind diplomat. It is an
>      achievement he fought for in the 1980s, passing three written entrance
>      exams and two oral exercises along the way. But even then, the State
>      Department barred him from the diplomatic corps.
>      You dont ask a blind person to drive a bus or be a bank teller, George
>      S. Vest, who was the personnel director for the Foreign Service,
>      explained in a 1988 interview. There are jobs which are dangerous or
>      unsuitable for them. And in the Foreign Service, were full of jobs
>      like that.
>      The department contended that diplomats, blind ones included, had to
>      be able to work anywhere in the world and to work with confidential
>      documents without any outside aid. In addition, State Department
>      officials said, diplomats had to be able to pick up on nonverbal cues,
>      such as winks or nods, which can sometimes have more meaning than the
>      words being uttered.
>      But Mr. Rabby illustrated another essential quality of diplomats:
>      perseverance. No international treaty has ever been decided on the
>      basis of a wink or a nod, he retorted, after hiring a lawyer and
>      challenging the State Departments policy, which dated from the 18th
>      century.
>      Aiding Mr. Rabbys effort was a federal law barring the government from
>      disqualifying prospective employees because of disabilities.
>      Eventually, after the news media and Congress found out about his
>      case, the State Department reversed course. The new policy would
>      consider disabled diplomats on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Rabby became
>      case No. 1.
>      In 1990, he was off to London, where he was posted at the embassy
>      there as a junior political officer. He moved next to Pretoria, South
>      Africa, where [6]Nelson Mandela had just been freed from prison and
>      where Mr. Rabby witnessed the countrys first free elections. It was
>      one of the most stimulating experiences in my life, he said, noting
>      that he was one of the embassys election observers.
>      People ask me how I can assess a political rally if I cant see it, he
>      said. I tell them that I listen to the crowd and to the speakers. You
>      can sense what is going on.
>      He spent time in Washington at the State Departments Bureau of Human
>      Rights, and in postings in Lima and New Delhi. During a stint at the
>      United States Mission to the [7]United Nations, he helped write
>      resolutions dealing with literacy, global health and the rights of the
>      disabled.
>      His final posting he retired at the end of June at the mandatory
>      retirement age of 65 was to Port of Spain, where he became an expert
>      in Trinidads political system, which has long been divided between
>      parties, one predominantly Afro-Trinidadian and one Indo-Trinidadian.
>      When journalists descended on Trinidad recently in search of
>      information on the suspected plot to set off a bomb at a fuel line at
>      Kennedy International Airport that was traced back to this Caribbean
>      island, he became one of the officials to talk to.
>      A diplomat does a lot of writing, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking,
>      a lot of talking and has to attend a lot of meetings, he said. Thanks
>      to technological advances and a full-time assistant, Mr. Rabby could
>      do all of those things too.
>      He wrote his cables to Washington using a machine that wrote in
>      Braille. He then read them back to his assistant, Rhonda Singh, who
>      typed them up. He also had a computer with a speech program that
>      allowed him to listen to his e-mail messages.
>      As for tracking news developments, Ms. Singh, an American citizen who
>      lives in Trinidad, read him the local papers. I was basically his
>      eyes, she said.
>      BORN in Israel, Mr. Rabby, who is known as Rami, was sent to live with
>      an aunt in England at the age of 10 because his parents believed there
>      were better schools for the blind there. A Hebrew speaker, he quickly
>      mastered English at Worcester College for Blind Boys.
>      I remember the headmaster used to go out and speak to groups about the
>      school, and he used to say that we teach our boys to stand on their
>      own two feet and, if necessary, to step on yours too, Mr. Rabby
>      recalled.
>      He went off to Oxford, where he studied French and Spanish. Finding a
>      job after college proved a challenge. Time and time again I met
>      recruiters who felt that a blind person could not work in management,
>      he said in the British accent that he has never lost.
>      Eventually, he joined Ford Motor Company in Britain, where he worked
>      in human resources. After about a year, he moved to the United States
>      and earned an M.B.A. at the [8]University of Chicago.
>      After graduation in 1969, he sought out a management training program,
>      but had few offers after dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of
>      interviews.
>      He finally landed a job with a management consulting firm, Hewitt
>      Associates, and later moved to Citibank. He also spent time as an
>      independent consultant, writing a number of employment guides,
>      including one giving advice to blind job seekers.
>      One of my problems in my working life, after a few years I get a bit
>      tired of what I am doing and I want to change, said Mr. Rabby, who
>      became an American citizen in 1980.
>      It was while living in New York that he decided to make the jump into
>      international relations, a longtime interest. The State Departments
>      regular rotations of its diplomats proved a perfect fit.
>      His fight to join the Foreign Service has helped others along the way.
>      There are now four blind Foreign Service officers stationed around the
>      globe, the State Department said, among about 170 disabled Foreign
>      Service employees overseas.
>      MR. RABBY said blind Foreign Service officers had recently been
>      restricted from adjudicating visa applications because of their
>      inability to verify photographs and signatures of applications.
>      Mr. Rabby, who attributes the decision to the increased restrictions
>      after the Sept. 11 attacks, said he did visa work at the start of his
>      career in London, with the assistance of a reader, who verified
>      documents for him. He asked the questions and assessed the responses.
>      The State Department is not yet completely on the side of the angels,
>      he said. A State Department official disputed that there was a policy
>      in place restricting the assignments of blind diplomats. Decisions on
>      assigning personnel, the official said, are made on a case-by-case
>      basis in accordance with the law.
>      Even before Mr. Rabby headed out into the world as a diplomat, he was
>      already testifying before Congress on his quest for the job. He said
>      back then that he did not want to be put in a pigeonhole as a blind
>      diplomat.
>      Blind people are as different from one another as sighted people, he
>      told members of the House Foreign Affairs and Civil Service Committees
>      in 1989. There is no such thing as a category labeled, blind.
>      Prior Beharry contributed reporting.
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