Helen Keller Quotes about Deafness & Disability


“The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus — the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”

Helen Keller,  Letter to Dr. James Kerr Love (1910)


“Some years ago I met a gentleman who was introduced to me as Mr. McKelway, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle … At the time the compliments that he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for Socialism he reminds me and the public that I am deaf and blind and especially liable to error.… The Eagle and I are at war. When it fights back, let it fight fair.… It is not fair fighting or good argument to remind me and others that I cannot see or hear.”

Helen Keller, “How I Became a Socialist”, New York Call (3 November 1912)


“We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses.”

Helen Keller, The Five-sensed World (1910)

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Helen Keller Quotes about Education

Helen Keller Quotes about Education

“I want to say to those who are trying to learn to speak and those who are teaching them: Be of good cheer. Do not think of to-day’s failures, but of the success that may come to-morrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere, and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles — a delight in climbing rugged paths, which you would perhaps never know if you did not sometime slip backward — if the road was always smooth and pleasant. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we shall find that which we seek. We shall speak, yes, and sing, too, as God intended we should speak and sing.”

– Helen Keller,  Address to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf (8 July 1896)


“The bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction.”

The Five-sensed World (1910)


“I had now the key to all language, and I was eager to learn to use it. Children who hear acquire language without any particular effort; the words that fall from others’ lips they catch on the wing, as it were, delightedly, while the little deaf child must trap them by a slow and often painful process. But whatever the process, the result is wonderful. Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare.”

– Helen Keller, as quoted in The Story of My Life


“To know the history of philosophy is to know that the highest thinkers of the ages, the seers of the tribes and the nations, have been optimists. The growth of philosophy is the story of man’s spiritual life.”

 – Helen Keller, Optimism

 


“The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage, — the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

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Helen Keller Quotes

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

– Helen Keller, The Open Door (1957)

Helen Keller Quotes about Freedom & Politics


“The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labour. Surely we must free men and women together before we can free women. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands — the ownership and control of their lives and livelihood — are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind are ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease. How can women hope to help themselves while we and our brothers are helpless against the powerful organizations which modern parties represent and which contrive to rule the people? They rule the people because they own the means of physical life, land, and tools, and the nourishers of intellectual life, the press, the church, and the school. You say that the conduct of the woman suffragists is being disgracefully misrepresented by the British press. Here in America the leading newspapers misrepresent in every possible way the struggles of toiling men and women who seek relief. News that reflects ill upon the employers is skillfully concealed — news of dreadful conditions under which labourers are forced to produce, news of thousands of men maimed in mills and mines and left without compensation, news of famines and strikes, news of thousands of women driven to a life of shame, news of little children compelled to labour before their hands are ready to drop their toys. Only here and there in a small and as yet uninfluential paper is the truth told about the workman and the fearful burdens under which he staggers.”

– Helen Keller,  Out of the Dark

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Helen Keller Quotes about Happiness


“Happiness is the final and perfect fruit of obedience to the laws of life.”

– Helen Keller, The Simplest Way to be Happy


“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”

– Helen Keller, The Simplest Way to be Happy


“Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they could be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep. If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life, — if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

– Helen Keller, We Bereaved (1929)


“It is curious to observe what different ideals of happiness people cherish, and in what singular places they look for this well-spring of their life. Many look for it in the hoarding of riches, some in the pride of power, and others in the achievements of art and literature; a few seek it in the exploration of their own minds, or in search for knowledge.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“It all comes to this: the simplest way to be happy is to do good.”

– Helen Keller, The Simplest Way to be Happy

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Helen Keller Quotes about Life

Helen Keller Quotes about Life

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”

 – Helen Keller,  Address to the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf at Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (8 July 1896), quoted in supplement to The Story of My Life

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

 – Helen Keller, The Open Door (1957)

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”

– Helen Keller,  Let Us Have Faith (1940)

 “I, too, can work, and because I love to labor with my head and my hands, I am an optimist in spite of all. I used to think I should be thwarted in my desire to do something useful. But I have found out that though the ways in which I can make myself useful are few, yet the work open to me is endless.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

 “Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbour was. “Light! give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.”

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

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Helen Keller Quotes about Literature & Art


“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. The things I have learned and the things I have been taught seem of ridiculously little importance compared with their “large loves and heavenly charities.”

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life


“If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.”

– Hellen Keller, The Story of My Life

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Helen Keller Quotes about Love

Helen Keller Quotes about Love

 “I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word, “love.” This was before I knew many words. I had found a few early violets in the garden and brought them to my teacher. She tried to kiss me: but at that time I did not like to have any one kiss me except my mother. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled into my hand, “I love Helen.”

“What is love?” I asked.

She drew me closer to her and said, “It is here,” pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time. Her words puzzled me very much because I did not then understand anything unless I touched it.

I smelt the violets in her hand and asked, half in words, half in signs, a question which meant, “Is love the sweetness of flowers?”

“No,” said my teacher.

Again I thought. The warm sun was shining on us.

“Is this not love?” I asked, pointing in the direction from which the heat came. “Is this not love?”

It seemed to me that there could be nothing more beautiful than the sun, whose warmth makes all things grow. But Miss Sullivan shook her head, and I was greatly puzzled and disappointed. I thought it strange that my teacher could not show me love.”

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

“Ruth is so loyal and gentle-hearted, we cannot help loving her, as she stands with the reapers amid the waving corn. Her beautiful, unselfish spirit shines out like a bright star in the night of a dark and cruel age. Love like Ruth’s, love which can rise above conflicting creeds and deep-seated racial prejudices, is hard to find in all the world.”

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

“Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. Now I rejoice in the consciousness that I can think, act and attain heaven. My life was without past or future; death, the pessimist would say, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living. Night fled before the day of thought, and love and joy and hope came up in a passion of obedience to nowledge. Can anyone who escaped such captivity, who has felt the thrill and glory of freedom, be a pessimist?”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

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Helen Keller Quotes about Nature


“Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. “Nothing in particular,” she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.

How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter’s sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me.”

– Helen Keller, Three Days to See

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Helen Keller Quotes about Optimism & Pessimism

Helen Keller Quotes about Optimism

“The test of all beliefs is their practical effect in life. If it be true that optimism compels the world forward, and pessimism retards it, then it is dangerous to propagate a pessimistic philosophy.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

 


“Let pessimism once take hold of the mind, and life is all topsy-turvy, all vanity and vexation of spirit. There is no cure for individual or social disorder, except in forgetfulness and annihilation. “Let us eat, drink and be merry,” says the pessimist, “for to-morrow we die.” If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied. I should sit apart in awful solitude, a prey to fear and despair. But since I consider it a duty to myself and to others to be happy, I escape a misery worse than any physical deprivation.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

 


“We have found that our great philosophers and our great men of action are optimists. So, too, our most potent men of letters have been optimists in their books and in their lives. No pessimist ever won an audience commensurately wide with his genius, and many optimistic writers have been read and admired out of all measure to their talents, simply because they wrote of the sunlit side of life.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

 


“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

 


“Every optimist moves along with progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the worlds at a standstill. The consequence of pessimism in the life of a nation is the same as in the life of the individual. Pessimism kills the instinct that urges men to struggle against poverty, ignorance and crime, and dries up all the fountains of joy in the world.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism

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Helen Keller Quotes about Religion


“I understand how it was possible for Spinoza to find deep and sustained happiness when he was excommunicated, poor, despised and suspected alike by Jew and Christian; not that the kind world of men ever treated me so, but that his isolation from the universe of sensuous joys is somewhat analogous to mine. He loved the good for its own sake. Like many great spirits he accepted his place in the world, and confided himself childlike to a higher power, believing that it worked through his hands and predominated in his being. He trusted implicitly, and that is what I do. Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts, ‘the source and centre of all minds, their only point of rest.”

Helen Keller, Optimism

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Helen Keller Quotes about Society & Peace


 “Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.”

– Helen Keller, “Strike Against War”, speech in Carnegie Hall (5 January 1916)


I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.”

– Helen Keller, Quoted in Henry More: The Rational Theology of a Cambridge Plattonist (1962)


“Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.… You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?”

– Helen Keller, Letter published in the Manchester Advertiser (3 March 1911), quoted in A People’s History of the United States (1980) page 345.


“Self-culture has been loudly and boastfully proclaimed as sufficient for all our ideals of perfection. But if we listen to the best men and women everywhere … they will say that science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.”

– Helen Keller, My Religion / Light in My Darkness


“Tyranny cannot defeat the power of ideas.”

 – Helen Keller, As quoted in the Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Helen Keller Quotes about Virtue

Helen Keller Quotes about Virtue

“No doubt the reason is that character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

– Helen Keller, (p. 60. Helen Keller’s Journal: 1936-1937)


“Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges?”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“It is curious to observe what different ideals of happiness people cherish, and in what singular places they look for this well-spring of their life. Many look for it in the hoarding of riches, some in the pride of power, and others in the achievements of art and literature; a few seek it in the exploration of their own minds, or in search for knowledge.”

– Helen Keller, Optimism


“Toleration … is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.”

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

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