HKS alums had an extremely unique and rewarding opportunity to experience the life of the blind. Called Dining in the Dark, the event was the brainchild of HKS alum Sara Minkara, HKS 2013, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), and generously hosted by Ruba Yousef Al Hassan, HKS 2013, Senior Advisor to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador, at the UAE Embassy.
The purpose of the event was to generate not only an understanding of what life is like without sight, but also stimulate a conversation to dispel the notion that blindness means helplessness. And, that with focused determination, persistence, and self-empowerment, the blind can not only overcome adversity, but also achieve (and often surpass) the same goals as those with sight.
The evening began with a short reception, accompanied by rounds of cocktails and canapés, after which everyone committed to donning a black visor to simulate blindness through the dinner. Each attendee was then led by hand to their respective seat. The act seemed easy enough, until one realizes just how much one takes their vision for granted. The immediate sensation is that of disorientation, followed by helplessness and loneliness, despite being in the presence of a room full of people. When dinner was served, the simplest tasks were met with uncertainty, and had to be carried out with great care, lest you should knock over a glass or stick your fingers in someone’s butter. The experience of being blind, if only for a short period, created an environment that allowed the guests to shed not only preconceived notions of themselves, but others as well.
It’s no accident that Minkara would become the founder and CEO of ETI. Herself blind since the age of seven, she has overcome her adversity through sheer strength of will, attending Wellesley College as well as Harvard, and becoming a Visiting Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. The recipient of numerous awards, she has demonstrated through her passion and commitment of what one can achieve, even when not on an even playing field. And she serves as an exemplar of the meaning of public service at HKS.