How to Be Like Helen Keller
- Set goals
After overcoming her disability, one of Keller’s primary goals was to attend a college with hearing and sighted students: “The thought of going to college took root in my heart and became an earnest desire, which impelled me to enter into competition for a degree with seeing and hearing girls, in the face of the strong opposition of many true and wise friends.”
- Don’t let obstacles stop you
Keller learned the manual finger alphabet to communicate and then learn. To do her school course work, Keller had to be patient and invest more hours than a sighted person. She was willing to pay the price to be educated. “It takes me a long time to prepare my lessons,” she wrote, “because I have to have every word of them spelled out in my hand.”
- Don’t let others tell you what you can’t do
Keller wrote to the academic board at Radcliffe, who were questioning whether she’d be able to succeed there: “I realize that the obstacles in the way of my receiving a college education are very great—to others they may seem insurmountable; but, dear Sir, a true soldier does not acknowledge defeat before the battle.”
- Pursue an education
Embrace the opportunity to be educated. Keller’s words apply to all: “I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things.”
- Thirst for knowledge
Read good books. “I will devour every book I can lay my hands on,” Keller wrote. Michael Anagnos described Keller as having a “thirst for knowledge” in his 1888 report, “Helen Keller: A Second Laura Bridgman.” He further stated: “As if impelled by a resistless instinctive force [Keller] snatched the key of the treasury of the English language from the fingers of her teacher, unlocked its doors with vehemence, and began to feast on its contents with inexpressible delight.”
- Live a life of faith
Keller embraced religion and God’s wisdom. It helped her be at peace with her handicap: “I believe that all through these dark and silent years, God has been using my life for a purpose I do not know; but one day I shall understand and then I will be satisfied.” She also said, “I cannot imagine myself without religion. I could as easily fancy a living body without a heart.”
- Help others
After learning to communicate, Keller’s mission from the time she was a little girl was to help others. From little Tommy Stringer to the soldiers who were the heroes of World War II, Keller tried to make other people’s lives better. “I will always—as long as I have breath—work for the handicapped,” Keller said on her eightieth birthday.
- Make your own decisions
Keller’s friends felt vaudeville was beneath her dignity, but Keller needed to earn a living and wanted to provide something for Sullivan should she die first. Rather than listen to others, Keller evaluated the opportunity herself and developed what she felt was a dignified act. The world hasn’t thought less of her because of what she did.
- Dare to do the impossible
Keller resolved to learn to speak—and worked hard to do so. Although she was never able to perfect her speaking ability, she never stopped trying. That same resolve served Keller well in other areas that she was able to master.
Used with permission from Women of Influence by Pat & Ruth Williams with Michael Mink (Health Communications, Inc., 2003).