Quotes for life from Helen Keller

As we celebrate Perkins' most famous student's birthday today, let's take a look back at her words of wisdom.

Helen Keller with her dog outside

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” – “Optimism: An Essay,” 1903

From her small hometown of Tuscumbia, Alabama to the hallowed halls of the United Nations in New York City, Helen Keller captured people’s hearts and minds. She was a prolific speaker and writer, advocating for the underprivileged – including people with disabilities, women and African Americans – everywhere she went. The former Perkins student remains one of the most famous figures in American history. As we celebrate what would have been her 137th birthday today, let’s hear from Keller herself:

On books:

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” – “The Story of My Life,” 1924

On dogs:

“Nobody, who is not blind, as much as they may love their pet, can know what a dog’s love really means. Dogs have travelled all over the world with me. They have always been my companions. A dog has never failed me.” – Undated interview about her love of dogs  

On philanthropy:

“My joys and sorrows are bound up indissolubly with the joys and sorrows of my fellowmen, and I feel far more blessed to see them receiving new opportunities, better tools with which to do their work, than I could feel if I received more for myself.” – 1910 letter to Andrew Carnegie, rejecting his offer of a generous pension

On nature:

“Long before I learned to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of the earth, Miss [Anne] Sullivan had taught me to find beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister’s hand.” – “The Story of My Life,” 1902

On education:

“Education should train the child to use his brains, to make for himself a place in the world and maintain his rights even when it seems that society would shove him into the scrap-heap.” – “Going Back to School,” The Home Magazine, September 1934

On happiness:

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” 
– “Sundry Interviews,” A Magazet, undated

Selected quotes from American Foundation for the Blind

Disability Inclusion Matters

Doubting Helen Keller: Where we go from here

Helen Keller worked with, and inspired, a number of U.S. presidents.

Helen Keller, the president whisperer

A young Helen Keller reading a braille book

Helen Keller, Shakespeare skeptic