Helen Keller showed the world that despite being handicapped she was more than capable of living a life full of success. Born on June 27, 1880, Helen lived a privileged life. Her father, Arthur Keller, had previously been an officer in the Confederate army, and her mother, Kate Adams, was a relative of Robert E. Lee. Though deaf and blind, she became a great American author and lecturer. She was an inspiration to many, handicapped and able-bodied alike. She once said, “[pqr]Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved[/pqr].” Helen showed this kind of mentality throughout her life.
Name: Helen Adams Keller
Born: June 27, 1880 – Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA
Died: June 1, 1968 (age 87) – Arcan Ridge, Connecticut, USA
Occupation: Author, Humanitarian
Struggles::A debilitating illness left her deaf and blind when she was only 19 months old. At such an early age, she was all alone in a world of silence and darkness. In order to communicate she used signs. However, when her parents did not understand her she grew angry and gave in to despair by screaming and throwing tantrums. She was known for being destructive and violent. It was obvious that Helen was not an exact counterpart to her affluent parents. In fact, during the 1880s the law considered those who were deaf and blind as idiots.
Though she displayed a stubborn disposition, she also displayed a capacity for learning. So much so that Alexander Graham Bell, advised her parents to get her a special teacher. The selected teacher was Anne Sullivan, who was also visually impaired. Though a difficult task, Anne overcame the communication barrier, and brought Helen into a new world of life. Anne used the finger alphabet, spelling out names of common items onto the palms of Helen’s hands.
Successes::Her first remarkable achievement was at a well. While Anne was pumping water onto Helen’s hand, and spelled water, it was then that Helen figured out that everything had its own name. After two years, she was fluent using the Braille system as a means to read and write. Anne taught her to speak by placing Helen’s fingers on her larynx. The vibrations enabled her to perceive how to speak words.
Helen continued her education at Radcliffe College. Her schooling was paid for by her friend Henry Huttleton Rogers, a Standard Oil magnate. Lectures were spelled out into the palms of her hands by Anne Sullivan, who attended each class with Helen. In 1904 Helen graduated and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts. This marked her as being the [pqr]first blind and deaf person to graduate college[/pqr].
Helen later committed herself to helping blind and deaf people. She helped raise funds for the American Foundation for the Blind. She revealed the difficulties experienced by those who are deaf and blind, and showed that they were capable of great things. She also founded Helen Keller International, a non-profit organization helped to prevent blindness. She received plenty of recognition for the success of her life. She was listed in Gallup’s Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century in 1999. Sheffield, Alabama dedicated The Helen Keller Hospital in honor of her. She later became a public speaker after much effort put forth by Anne. In 1914, Helen began speaking to audiences across the United States.
- “Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
- “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
- “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
- “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.”
Why She Should Have Given up::Because Helen Keller grew up blind and deaf, it would have been easy for her to give up. She should have. She could’ve used her disability as an excuse- and it would have been a great excuse – but she didn’t. We take our senses for granted. Try cupping your ears and closing your eyes. How does it feel? Not only is it dark, but it’s lonely. Imagine feeling that way all the time. That’s how Helen Keller lived her whole life. Despite this, she didn’t focus on what she couldn’t do, she focused on what she could do. During the time that she lived, she was classified as an “idiot”, and she was a woman. According to society, she should have been mediocre. Learning to speak and read would have been enough. Graduating from college was extraordinary, but she didn’t stop there, she wanted to accomplish more. [pq]She went way beyond what normal people would do – people who can see and who can hear[/pq].
When she gave lectures, often times those listening had difficulty understanding her. Anne Sullivan would have to repeat Helen’s words so that the audience could fully grasp what she was saying. She could have felt ashamed for not being able to speak well, she could have been angry that she could not see or hear, but she was not. Imagine the ridicule she went through, and how people stared at her. Imagine her in class and people wondering what she was doing there. And who expected all this success from Helen? Was it her parents, was it her friends, was it society? No, it was herself. Helen chose to be a success, and be more than ordinary. She believed in herself. She knew that despite her disabilities she could accomplish great things and enjoy life to the fullest.
Wikipedia – “Helen Keller.” [Online]