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Helen Keller

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Helen Keller: An Extraordinary Woman The name Helen Keller is known around the world as a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of luminous intelligence, high ambition, and great accomplishment. She was a woman to stand up for her believes in and would challenge anyone who would stand in her way. She had an ability to demand and captivate her audience. She was outspoken in her principles, and she inspired change in the way people with visual impairment were treated. She pushed revolutionary changes in the law that would allow people with disabilities to have jobs and an education. I am inspired by Helen Keller because she was a person with so many challenges at such a young age. Yet she was able to overcome them and change some many things in our country, but she didn’t stop just in our country. She went overseas where some people also had no way to speak their opinions and needs. Even with her disabilities she never wanted pity. She asked for sympathy and understanding. Helen was an extraordinary woman. When Helen was nineteen months old, she contacted a virus with a high fever and that was what caused her to deaf and blind. Unfortunately, being that young, what memory traces were left became impossible to say. In 1887, unknowing to Helen, someone was going to change her unruly behavior, that’s when Anne Sullivan became her teacher (Keller 15). One day when Helen and Ms. Sullivan were getting water, that’s the day that changed her whole life, in Helen’s own words, “Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as something forgotten-a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. The word WATER. That living word awakened my soul, give it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time he swept away” (Keller 36). I can relate to this in way because even though I am not blind or deaf I have a struggled with learning my whole life. I make things harder for myself sometimes than it really is. Much like Helen when I do understand, it’s like a light bulb in my head turns on. Once she learned the word water, there was no stopping Helen until she wanted to stop. She wanted to go to school. In the later 1800’s there really wasn’t that many schools for the blind. The ones that were in Alabama were not the ones that her mother wanted her to go to. They decided to go to The Perkins Institution for the Blind. This was only the beginning for Helen and school. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree at Radcliffe College; she graduated in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was the first blind-deaf person to ever do this (Helen). This is inspiring to me because she didn’t start to learn until she was seven years old, during a time that looked at people with disabilities like they had a disease. Helen was able to overcome all that and get a college education. This is what I’m going to remember when I’m having trouble in college. If Helen can do it, so can I. Helen always said, “I will not just live my life. I will not just spend my life. I will invest my life” (Helen). These are words that I will now live by. This quote of hers is something that I am going to say when I or someone else may need some encouragement.
Helen always saw herself as a writer, never an activist. But, “Helen’s ability to empathize with the individual citizen in need as well as her ability to work with work leaders to global policy on vision loss make her supremely effective ambassador for disabled persons worldwide. Her active participation in this began as early as 1915. When the Permanent Blind War Relief Fund, later called American Braille Press, was founded. She was a member of the first board of directors” (Helen). This is what started for her, a lifetime of changing laws and speaking for the people around the world that had no voice of their own. She traveled between 1946 and 1957 to 35 countries and 5 continents. Even to today if you look back to where she visited, you can see a direct link to her improving the life for the blind (Helen).
As a pacifist, Helen protested the United States involvement in World War I. On January 5, 1916, Helen spoke at an anti-war rally about World War I in New York City. She wanted to inspire others to follow her believes against the war. She argued that the American people were being led by the disputes of the capitalists and their interests and the Americans were on the verge of becoming victims of pointless slaughter (Golway 189). One of the things Helen said in her speech was, “We are not free unless the men who frame and execute the laws represent the interests of the lives of the people and no other interests (Golway 193). That day she spoke the audience had a hard time understanding what she was exactly saying even though she had learn to talk; she was still hard to understand (Golway188). This speech all most hundred years ago still is true today. The wars that are going today are not on the United States soil. But, yet our troops are fighting for someone else’s benefit. She was a member of American Liberties Union. Not only did she fight for the right of the deaf and blind; she also fought for women rights (Helen). I am amazed by Helen Keller’s whole life, she was a woman that had so many obstacles, and yet she was a college graduate she fought for the rights of others. As a writer Helen was wrote over 475 speeches and essays. She wrote on topics like faith, blindness prevention, birth control, and even atomic energy. Helen learned how to read lips. She learned to read lips by putting her fingers on your mouth and then putting her thumb on your throat. By doing this she was able to feel the vibration from your voice through her fingers. That’s how she also taught herself how to speak. She and Ms. Sullivan would sit for hours, where Ms. Sullivan would say words and Helen would mimic the sounds that felt through her fingers. Helen’s whole life, she had devoted herself to never stop learning (Helen). This has motived me to never stop learning and that sometimes we, people with no disabilities, take things for granted. If I lost my sight and sounds I’m not sure I could be as strong as Helen.
As I have learned about Helen, she has taught me a lot of things and I will always take with me and share with me children. The first she had shown me is to never give up. Through the help of her teacher Ms. Sullivan, she never stopped and felt pity for herself because of her disabilities. Instead they were an asset to her, Helen had such a strong spirit, she just continue to want to change things for others and never take no for an answer. The second thing she taught me was to trust others. Helen had to trust other people not being able to see. Ms. Sullivan stayed with Helen as her teacher and friend until she passed away. Third thing that she has taught me is anyone can make a difference in the world stand up for what you believe in and no matter what your weakness are. Helen to me is an extraordinary person, because she was extremely smart and being blind and deaf only made her better. Her being blind and deaf was her strength and being able to get educated made her unstopped. Through her disabilities, she made people in amazement listen to her. They wondered how someone with those disabilities could be able to do so much. When she was done talking she had motived you to want to make a difference. The people that were willing to help make things better for others like her made a difference. She changed the world around her and everyone in it. The United States of America, as it is today, would not the same if Helen Keller had not been it. Words to live by for the rest of my life, “I will not just live my life. I will not just spend my life. I will invest my life” (Keller 36

Works Cited
Golway, Terry, and Lewis H. Lapham. “30: Helen Keller. Strike Against War,” Words that Ring through Time; From Moses and Pericles to Obama: Fifty-one of the Most Important Speeches in History and How They Changed Our World. New York, NY: Overlook, 2009. 187-94. Print
Keller, Helen. “The Story of my Life”. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1954. 13-36. Print.
“Helen Keller Biography-American Foundation for the Blind.” American Foundation for the Blind. American Foundation for the Blind, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

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