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A tribute to Helen Keller

These are my remarks, honoring the remarkable Helen Keller at Good House Keeping Magazine's celebration of 125 years of wonderful service as well as 125 years of amazing women - benefiting the National Women's History Museum in Washington, DC

Helen Keller Tribute – by Marlee Matlin

I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word “love.” This was before I knew many words. I had found a few early violets in the garden and brought them to my teacher.”

“What is love?” I asked.
She drew me closer to her and said, “It is here,” pointing to my heart, whose beats I was conscious of for the first time.” Her words puzzled me very much because I did not then understand anything unless I touched it.
I smelt the violets in her hand and asked half in words, half in signs, “Is love the sweetness of flowers?”
“No,” said my teacher.

Again I thought. The warm sun was shining on us. 

“Is this not love?” I asked, pointing in the direction from which the heat came, “Is this not love?”
It seemed to me that there could be nothing more beautiful than the sun, whose warmth makes all things grow. But Miss Sullivan shook her head and I was greatly puzzled and disappointed.

A day or two afterward I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups. I had made many mistakes and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error and for an instance I concentrated on how I should’ve arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled in my hand with decided emphasis, “Think.”

For a long time I was still—I was not thinking of the beads in my lap, but trying to find a meaning for “love” in the light of this new idea. The sun had been under a cloud all day but suddenly it broke forth in all its southern splendor.

Again I asked my teacher, “Is this not love?”

“Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.” The beautiful truth burst upon my mind-I felt there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others. 

In a society where she would have most certainly been condemned to a life of fearful limitation and mortality, Helen Keller rose and soared above everyone’s expectations, to become a symbol of triumph over adversity, making disability seem less threatening.

Though Helen Keller lived in a world of silence and darkness, prejudice and discrimination, silence was the last thing the world heard from her. Helen Keller, young girl and woman, complex and enigmatic, blind and deaf, your inspiration rings loud and shines bright today, more than 125 years after your birth.

Pasted: Apr 13, 2010, 2:36:51 am
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