Helen Keller

Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing at 19 months old, as the result of an unknown illness. To communicate with her family, she devised 60 signs in early childhood, but the arrival of teacher Anne Sullivan changed her life. She wrote, “My teacher placed my hand, under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.” Keller pursued advanced education, as the first deaf-blind person to earn a college diploma. She became a world-famous writer and lecturer, advocating for economic reform and the rights of women, workers, and those with disabilities. Keller was a fierce voice in national politics, cofounding the American Civil Liberties Union and championing the American Foundation for the Blind. Keller said, “Helping your fellow men were one’s only excuse for being in this world and in the doing of things to help one’s fellows lay the secret of lasting happiness.” How can you incorporate Keller’s advice to “help one’s fellows” into your mission statement?

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