Volume 26, Number 3, Fall 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen of ASCLA, Thank You for the Opportunity

Sara Hyder

Editor’s note: This is the text of 2003 Century Scholarship winner Sara Hyder’s thank you given during the ASCLA President’s Program at the 2004 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando. Contact her at shyder@utk.edu.

I stand before you a normal-looking, healthy young woman. Or am I? In truth, I suffer from a hidden disease. I was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of nine and have since been experiencing the ebbs and flows of this mysterious and haunting disease. This autoimmune disease, like so many others, is constantly attacking the body’s own healthy cells and organs. The most difficult part of such a disease is feeling tired, sore, and sometimes sick while looking, well, normal.

Disabilities know no race, creed, gender, age or any other physically differentiating factor. They can be silent and unassuming or difficult to even see beyond. Disabilities affect us all whether we suffer, know someone who does suffer, or serve those who suffer.

Lupus has afforded me no greater opportunity then to be involved with advocacy organizations such as yours. Through disability awareness programs, I have been witness to the trials and bravery of those with disabilities who continually fight for recognition and equality. There I also learned humility. Through the plights of others, I found greater strength and understanding. My greatest lesson learned while living with Lupus is to never assume. Never assume that someone is not hurting or ill or fighting along side someone one who is. My disability has helped me become aware of others and appreciate their struggles.

Organizations like ASCLA are far more than only encouraging; they are inclusive. I have had the added struggles of learning to manage my health while attempting to grow and succeed both personally and professionally. You have acknowledged my hidden struggle, but, more importantly, my accomplishments despite Lupus.

Thank you for the financial support of the 2003 Century Scholarship. It has afforded me great opportunities to succeed at the University of Tennessee and realize my potential as a future information professional. The funds from this scholarship represent understanding and acceptance. This kind of understanding has helped me to live a relatively normal and productive life. I hope to continue in the footsteps of the countless advocates who came before me.

This organization is to be commended for its ability to see beyond what makes forty-nine million Americans different and advocate for what makes us unique. We have the extraordinary and powerful opportunity to advocate for those who live in silence but have the right to the same access to information and same benefits to information that everyone does in this great country.

We as information specialists have a professional and personal obligation to never assume a person’s condition, to see beyond any limitations, and continue the fight to provide access for all.

Thank you for letting me speak to you today.