Helen Keller - A Woman of Optimism and Activism

Helen Keller smelling a flower

 In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re taking a look at a woman who not only fought for the rights of people with disabilities like herself but also advocated for marginalized groups all over the world. Helen Keller’s optimistic perspective and activism continue to inspire and empower women today.
In her text “Optimism: An Essay,” Helen Keller discusses her positive outlook on life. She understood optimism as a mindset cultivated over time. Helen said, “the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” She discloses that life is complicated, full of many blessings and challenges. It is only through experiencing and moving past suffering that we are able to achieve optimism, to see the good in the world and ignore the bad. In attaining this perspective, everyone has the potential to positively contribute to the world around them.

Being an optimist also means being an active, not passive, member of society. Helen wrote, “the optimist believes, attempts, achieves. He stands always in the sunlight… His soul meets his own and beats a glad march to every new discovery, every fresh victory over difficulties, every addition to human knowledge and happiness.” It is with a childlike buoyancy and joy that all of humankind should look at life’s circumstances and a steely determination that people should take on challenges. In contrast, the pessimist dwells upon his situation and does not get anything accomplished. Helen said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” Here, we must remember that actions yield change. Therefore, being an optimist in today’s society is crucial if a person wants to better the world in which they live.
Understanding the difficulty of attaining and maintaining a positive perspective and active lifestyle, Helen Keller provided counsel to others. She advised people to, “keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” In other words, finding the silver lining of any situation can make someone’s day a little brighter. That same silver lining can also help people see the good in others. Likewise, a solution to a problem is not far away for Helen said: “a bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” Thus, having an open mind and looking outside the box helps people in discovering the answer. As new opportunities arise, Helen believes that people should take them. They should remember her mantra, “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.”

In the end, Helen Keller leaves everyone yearning to help others while observing the glass to be half full. Her example is instrumental in teaching others how to look upon the world and participate in it. For these reasons, we admire Helen Keller and strive to follow in her footsteps.

Jess Minneci is a senior at Seton Hill University and an intern at APH. 
She is a three-time National Braille Challenge participant and has 
previously volunteered with ACB. She is a poet and aspiring novelist
who enjoys filming youtube videos about young adult novels
and spending time with her guide dog Joyce.


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