Forerunners of the Great American Dream: Helen Keller

Helen KellerBorn on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller was a normal child, until, at age 19 months, she contracted an illness which left her both blind and deaf for the rest of her life.

After several terrible, lonely years, she met her lifelong teacher, Anne Sullivan, who, through immense patience, guided Helen and taught her to communicate with the outside world through language.

Despite enormous handicaps, Helen Keller went on to become one of the most admired women of her century.  She published 12 books, and encouraged audiences around the world.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and, in 1999, was listed in Gallup’s Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeHere are some of the things she has to say to you:

“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.”

“Be of good cheer.  Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow.  You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.  Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness.  It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”

“For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill of Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way.  I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon.  Every struggle is a victory.  One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire.”

“I rejoice to live in such a splendidly disturbing time!”

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.”

“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.”

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

“What I’m looking for is not out there, it is in me.”
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

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