Helen Keller achieved worldwide recognition as a speaker and campaigner while remaining in touch with her isolation, vulnerability and dependence on others. Growing up in Alabama, USA, she lost her hearing and sight at the age of 18 months. Despite the challenges she faced, she worked tirelessly not only to promote the rights of disabled people but also in support of issues such as poverty, racism, birth control and women’s rights.
"No-one knows better than I the bitter denials of life. But I have made my limitations tools of learning and true joy," Helen Keller said at the age of 80. Having worked through so many obstacles herself, she was determined to help other people do the same. "I do not like the world as it is; so I am trying to make it a little more as I want it."
Helen Keller’s energy was extraordinary. She spoke on the subject of disability in over 35 different countries, and began a 40,000-mile tour of Asia when she was 75 years old. She met with 10 United States presidents, was the first deaf-blind individual to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in the USA, and the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University. She was the subject of an Academy-Award winning documentary and of a Broadway play. More than 1200 mourners attended her funeral. Yet she had enough detachment from her own achievements to describe her hospital visits to the blind, deaf and disabled soldiers of World War II as "the crowning experience of my life."
Ironically, Helen Keller herself remarked, "I believe humility is a virtue, but I prefer not to use it unless it is absolutely necessary." Is the person who shuns humility the one who best embodies it? It seems logical that those who consider themselves humble are in more danger of being proud and pleased with themselves. As Benjamin Franklin observed, "Alas, I know if I ever became truly humble, I would be proud of it".