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Helen Keller

  • ... we could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

    • Helen Keller,
    • in Atlantic Monthly ()
  • ... the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.

  • 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.

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

  • Words are the mind's wings, are they not?

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

  • It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.

  • ... militarism ... is one of the chief bulwarks of capitalism, and the day that militarism is undermined, capitalism will fail.

  • ... 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.

  • ... there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.

  • Our worst foes are not belligerent circumstances, but wavering spirits ...

  • The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that 'things seen are temporal, and things unseen are eternal.'

  • There is much in the Bible against which every instinct of my being rebels, so much that I regret the necessity which has compelled me to read it through from beginning to end. I do not think that the knowledge which I have gained of its history and sources compensates me for the unpleasant details it has forced upon my attention.

  • Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

  • ... you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles ...

  • ... no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we shall find that which we seek.

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

  • I distrust the rash optimism in this country that cries, 'Hurrah, we're all right! This is the greatest nation on earth,' when there are grievances that call loudly for redress.

  • ... although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

  • The highest result of education is tolerance.

  • There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.

  • No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.

  • No loss by flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.

  • Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.

  • The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.

  • I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. ... the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker ...

  • Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across a thousand miles and all the years we have lived.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Sense and Sensibility," in Century ()
  • Smell is a fallen angel.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Sense and Sensibility," in Century ()
  • I found that of the senses, the eye is the most superficial, the ear the most arrogant, smell the most voluptuous, taste the most superstitious and fickle, touch the most profound and the most philosophical.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Sense and Sensibility," in Century ()
  • Where once stood the steadfast pines, great, beautiful, sweet, my hand touched raw, moist stumps. All about lay broken branches, like the antlers of stricken deer. The fragrant, piled-up sawdust swirled and tumbled about me. An unreasoning resentment flashed through me at the ruthless destruction of the beauty that I love.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Sense and Sensibility", in Century ()
  • The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than the problems 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. J. Kerr Love (1910), in Brian Grant, ed., The Quiet Ear ()
  • ... until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.

  • It is not possible to refer a complex difficulty to a single cause.

  • Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.

  • The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor.

  • People are too prone to think that the actual is the limit of possibility. They believe that all that has been done is all that can be done.

  • Be happy, talk happiness. Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others. There is enough sadness in the world without yours.

  • Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight. True education combines intellect, beauty, goodness, and the greatest of these is goodness. When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.

  • My darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the outer day-lit world was stumbling and groping in social blindness.

  • The only moral virtue of war is that it compels the capitalist system to look itself in the face and admit it is a fraud. It compels the present society to admit that it has no morals it will not sacrifice for gain.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • I look upon the whole world as my fatherland, and every war has to me the horror of a family feud.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • ... the best preparation [for war] is the one that disarms the hostility of other nations and makes friends of them.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • Every modern war has had its roots in exploitation.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • This great republic is a mockery of freedom as long as you are doomed to dig and sweat to earn a miserable living while the masters enjoy the fruit of your toil.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Menace of the Militarist Program," in New York Call ()
  • Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "The Star of Happiness" (1920), vaudeville performance, in Dorothy Herrmann, Helen Keller: A Life ()
  • ... I feel the flame of eternity in my soul.

  • ... 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.

  • We should not think of conversion as the acceptance of a particular creed, but as a change of heart.

  • The million little things that drop into our hands, the small opportunities each day brings, He leaves us free to use or abuse and goes unchanging along His silent way.

  • The world is so full of care and sorrow that it is a gracious debt we owe to one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks.

  • We cannot freely and wisely choose the right way for ourselves unless we know both good and evil.

  • ... how futile are words in the ears of those who mourn.

  • What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

  • 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.

  • Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Sundry Interviews," in Walter Fogg, One Thousand Sayings of History ()
  • It is not possible for civilization to flow backwards while there is youth in the world. Youth may be headstrong, but it will advance its allotted length.

  • I believe in the immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings.

  • ... I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower — the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence.

  • If we do not like our work, and do not try to get happiness out of it, we are a menace to our profession as well as to ourselves.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Know Thyself," The Home Magazine ()
  • The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Try Democracy," in The Home Magazine ()
  • Everybody talks, nobody listens. Good listeners are as rare as white crows.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "The Beauty of Silence," in The Home Magazine ()
  • I, who have never heard a sound, tell you there is no silence, and I, who have never seen a ray of light, tell you there is no darkness.

    • Helen Keller,
    • in Alice Hegan Rice, My Pillow Book ()
  • ... character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.

  • The danger of having the Constitution twisted and misconstrued to support vested interests and prejudices must be guarded against if American democracy is to maintain a progressive character.

  • Joy is a spiritual element that gives vicissitudes unity and significance.

  • World peace will never come until the passion of supremacy is combated.

  • Surely there is no road of effort so steep but a loving deed may soften its harshness.

  • Change may be the vitalizing wind blowing through the house of life, but it is not an abiding force. We need permanent things to soak peace into us as well as progress — the beauty of the earth, seedtime and harvest, the smiles of lovers, the joy of the young in being alive, pride in craftsmanship. Why, oh why must we let ourselves forget these lasting treasures in an age of consuming ambition, speed madness and accumulated goods that leave us no chance to live? If we cannot be contented with a little no wealth will ever satisfy us.

  • ... it is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing ...

  • ... health in all lands is among the indispensable guarantees of human progress.

  • Commercial concerns have expanded from family business to corporate wealth which is self-perpetuating and which enlightened statesmen and economists now dread as the most potent oligarchy yet produced.

  • Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes real happiness. It is not obtained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

  • Few pleasures there are indeed without an aftertouch of pain, but that is the preservation which keeps them sweet.

  • Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.

  • There is plenty of courage among us for the abstract but not enough for the concrete ...

  • No nation is wise enough to rule another.

  • Defeat is simply a signal to press onward.

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

  • ... I regard philanthropy as a tragic apology for wrong conditions under which human beings live ...

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter (1944), To Love This Life ()
  • Faith reinvigorates the will, enriches the affections, and awakens a sense of creativeness. Active faith knows no fear, and it is a safeguard to me against cynicism and despair.

    • Helen Keller,
    • on Edward R. Murrow's "This I Believe" ()
  • Happiness is like the mountain summit. It is sometimes hidden by clouds, but we know it is there.

    • Helen Keller,
    • in Van Wyck Brooks, Helen Keller ()
  • To get Congress to do anything.

    • Helen Keller,
    • when asked what she considered the hardest thing in the world, in Van Wyck Brooks, Helen Keller ()
  • ... no one has a right to consume happiness without producing it ...

  • I believe war is the inevitable fruit of our economic system ...

  • Poverty is the fundamental cause of most of the physical, moral and economic ills of humanity.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "A Letter to You from Helen Keller,", for the American Association for the Conservation of Vision ()
  • What can rulers, nobility and all the lords of the earth say to justify the horrible killing and maiming of twenty or thirty million valuable men who a short while ago ploughed, dug, wove, built, guided the traffic of the world, took their pleasure, loved their fellows, cherished their families, and feared naught?

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter to Henry Ford ()
  • Instead of being satisfied to alleviate suffering, we shall labor hard and continually to prevent it.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech "Facing the Future" ()
  • The civilization of a state should be measured by the amount of suffering it prevents and the degree of happiness it makes possible for its citizens.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech to Iowa legislature ()
  • He who is content with what has been done is an obstacle in the path of progress.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech, 1927, To Love This Life ()
  • There is no blindness more insidious, more fatal than this race for profit ...

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech, 1928, To Love This Life ()
  • Love? Why ... it is what everybody feels for everybody else.

    • Helen Keller
  • How spiritually blind are men that they fail to see that we are bound together. We rise or fall together; we are dwarfed or godlike, free or chained, together.

    • Helen Keller
  • I do not want the peace which passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.

    • Helen Keller
  • Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.

    • Helen Keller
  • Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter, 1955, To Love This Life ()
  • I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.

    • Helen Keller
  • What a blind person needs is not a teacher but another self.

    • Helen Keller
  • We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.

    • Helen Keller
  • It is certain that I cannot always distinguish my own thoughts from those I read, because what I read becomes the very substance and text of my mind.

    • Helen Keller
  • It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel towards our distant goal.

    • Helen Keller
  • It need not discourage us if we are full of doubts. Healthy questions keep faith dynamic. In fact, unless we start with doubts we cannot have a deep-rooted faith. One who believes lightly and unthinkingly has not much of a belief. He who has a faith which is not to be shaken has won it through blood and tears — has worked his way from doubt to truth as one who reaches a clearing through a thicket of brambles and thorns.

    • Helen Keller
  • The only way out is through.

    • Helen Keller
  • I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God.

    • Helen Keller
  • I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

    • Helen Keller
  • While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.

    • Helen Keller
  • Death ... is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

    • Helen Keller
  • I believe humility is a virtue, but I prefer not to use it unless it is absolutely necessary.

    • Helen Keller,
    • 1916, To Love This Life ()
  • Faith is a mockery if it does not teach us that we can build a more omplete and beautiful world.

  • True teaching cannot be learned from text-books any more than a surgeon can acquire his skill by reading about surgery.

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter, 1955, To Love This Life ()
  • People often ... have no idea how fair the flower is to the touch, nor do they appreciate its fragrance, which is the soul of the flower.

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter, 1923, To Love This Life ()
  • I am thankful that in a troubled world no calamity can prevent the return of spring.

    • Helen Keller,
    • letter, 1933, To Love This Life ()
  • ... I have made my limitations tools of learning and true joy.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Helen Keller at 80," in This Week Magazine ()
  • Many of us delude ourselves with the thought that if we could stand in the lot of our more fortunate neighbor, we could live better, happier and more useful lives. ... It is my experience that unless we can succeed in our present position, we could not succeed in any other.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech, 1927, To Love This Life ()
  • The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech, 1925, To Love This Life ()
  • The human being is born with an incurable capacity for making the best of things.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "O! Brave New World That Has Such People In't," Red Cross Magazine ()
  • A person who is severely impaired never knows his hidden sources of strength until he is treated like a normal human being and encouraged to shape his own life.

  • The attempt to suppress an idea has always and everywhere proved a failure.

  • I grow more and more suspicious of the political powers that take men away from their work and set them shooting one another.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "The Modern Woman, The Educated Woman," Metropolitan Magazine ()
  • There are no such things as divine, immutable or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim to them.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Why Men Need Women Suffrage," New York Call ()
  • Happiness is a state of mind, and depends very little on outward circumstances.

    • Helen Keller,
    • speech, 1930, To Love This Life ()
  • The tragic side of many architectural enterprises is that they destroy natural beauties which are a priceless possession and cannot be replaced.

  • 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,
    • speech, Carnegie Hall ()
  • 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.

  • Not all the military poems that I have read have roused in me so heroic a desire to welcome my brother home with a bullet in his heart.

  • Fortunately, education does not depend on educational institutions any more than religion depends on churches.

  • Ignorance gives her confidence, and she is fearless from want of understanding.

  • Knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge — broad, deep knowledge — is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low.

  • A bend in the road is not the end of the road ... unless you fail to make the turn.

    • Helen Keller
  • Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

    • Helen Keller,
    • in Harold Bolce, "Away From Ancient Altars," Cosmopolitan Magazine ()

Helen Keller, U.S. writer, lecturer, anti-war activist

(1880 - 1968)

Full name: Helen Adams Keller