Celebrating 150: Helen Keller Visits

Helen Keller, dressed in a formal dark colored suit and hat, stands next to a phonograph at the AFB headquarters in New York, N.Y. Her left hand is placed on the top of the phonograph and her right hand is poised in the air. Circa 1944. Copyright © American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller Archive.

Helen Keller, the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, visited the University in 1915. Her presentation, described in the Index as “one of the most interesting events in the lives of the students assembled,” included an example of how she could keep time with music played on the piano. The author, political activist and lecturer also had the following remarks for the students, which the Index reprinted:

“Dear friends: You have all come here to study, to open many doors. Your teachers open for you the doors of art, of history, of science. I hope you realize the greatness of the opportunity which is yours. Try to understand the source of society you live in and how it is constructed, how it happens there is so much poverty and misery and crime in the world. Find out why men go to war and kill each other when they do not hate each other. Find out why workmen go on strikes for better wages and better conditions, and why they are shot and imprisoned by the state. That is your business. Students find out why things go wrong in the world and then try to set them right. Leave no door of your heart unopened, leave no life door unopened. Knowledge is of no value unless through it you make your fellowmen freer, happier, better, more efficient. The world’s greatest assets are understanding, faith and knowledge, and in these there is no exclusive property. We can all have them if we work for them, if we open every door. The country that has the greatest future is the country that can have the best government and the happiest human beings.”
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