A Life Worth Emulating: Helen Keller’s Legacy

By Jessica Minneci
A young Helen touching a statue in a museum.

        When people think about Helen Keller, they recall the image of a girl with one hand under a water pump while her teacher spells the word “water” in sign language into her other hand. While this story is beautiful, people often don’t take the time to reflect on the rest of Helen’s life. Helen Keller was 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’s accomplishments would have been impossible if not for her optimistic perspective, which continues to inspire people today.
In her text “Optimism: An Essay,” Helen Keller discusses her positive outlook on life. She thinks of optimism as a mindset that grows over time. Helen said, “the struggle which evil necessitates… makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women.” It “teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” She shows people that life is complex, full of many blessings and challenges. By experiencing and moving past suffering, people can gain an optimistic worldview. They begin to see the good in life and ignore the bad.

Being an optimist also means being an active 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 joy that people should look at life and a steely determination that they should face its 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.” Remember, even one action can lead to change. A shift in someone’s outlook on the world can make all the difference in their life and in the lives of others.
Sometimes, it is hard to maintain a positive perspective. Helen knew this and advised people to, “keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” 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. In addition, a solution to a problem is not far away as “a bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.” 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.”

Helen Keller’s life is admirable to many. She shows people how to look upon the world and participate in it. Let her legacy live on by following in her footsteps, working to change the world one action at a time.

Jessica Minneci is a  marketing associate at APH. 
A creative writing major in college, she is a free verse poet and aspiring
novelist who enjoys spending time with her guide dog Joyce.


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