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Helen Keller at the United Nations

Helen Keller is 'listening' to a debate at the United Nations. Keller's companion Polly Thomson manually signs into Keller's hand, interpreting the debate, November 1949

As world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly, it is interesting to read the speech that Keller wrote for the United Nations in 1950.

"Dear Friends:

Truly it is an exalted privilege for me to address such a splendid gathering representing the humanitarian public spirit of world citizenship. As United Nations Week brings home to us the far-speeding activities of our global Prometheus, it is fitting that we hail an organization whose final triumph is bound up with the salvation and welfare of mankind. It is as if the Pentecostal tongues of fire had descended upon earth.

Last Spring I attended a meeting of a committee on the blind under UNESCO in Paris which was trying to unify the divergent Braille systems used by the sightless throughout the earth, and I have been thrilled by its victory in devising a world Braille script which will enable them to communicate freely with each other, to exchange ideas and information and grasp more fully the treasures of intellectual life.

If it was possible to gain this benefit for the fourteen million blind of the world, what cannot we accomplish for peace, when the Security Council has prevented or stopped wars that involved one-fourth of our race? And there is incalculable challenge in the United Nations’ achievement of establishing a code of human rights that will ultimately shed its blessings upon every land. Already it is a guiding star in the protection of mandated peoples and assistance both technical and financial to backward or undeveloped areas. There are other luminous rays of encouragement in the fact that through the United Nations hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa are being lifted from humiliating dependence to equality in the world community.

Another story rich with significance for all men is the energy with which the United Nations through its World Health Organization and UNESCO is combating age-old epidemics, laboring to promote fundamental education for backward communities in the Middle and Far East, and facilitating access for all study groups to the science, literature, philosophy and scholarship of the different countries. And those huge enterprises were begun only four years ago!

I believe that the majority of mankind are essentially decent, and that as they know more fully the problems that are agitating one another’s minds, they will draw closer together. I do not think that the difficulty is lack of moral forces. There are plenty of brains and goodwill, and as soon as the peoples are satisfied that we are moving along roads of practical living, we can be sure of understanding and cooperation everywhere.

Let us then hold up the hands of the United Nations in its noble efforts to abolish ignorance, prejudice and strife, to kindle faith in the dignity of many, and to distribute equitably the fruits of his knowledge and achievement.

Hartford, Conn. October 27, 1950

Image: Helen Keller is seen "listening" to a debate at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Keller's companion Polly Thomson manually signs into Keller's right hand, interpreting what is being said. November 23rd, 1949.

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Public Policy
Helen Keller

Happy National Guide Dog Month!

Photo of Paige, a black lab wearing her working harness and a STAFF badge

Hi, I'm Paige, and I'm a dog guide. I've blogged here before, and so has my master, Crista Earl, who wrote a several-part diary telling how we first met. I wanted to give a shout-out to all my fellow dog guides because it's September, which is National Guide Dog Month.

Recently my master and her colleagues took a trip to a wonderful place called The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. Most of the people had never been there, but I already knew my way around since this was where I went to school and where I first met my master!

I am a New York City dog, so I am used to taking trains. We took a train out of Penn Station into New Jersey. Once we got there, the nice folks from The Seeing Eye came and picked us up and we drove out into the beautiful countryside, where they are located.

All the humans introduced themselves, and had coffee, then watched a presentation. Since I like to relax when I can, I just lay down by my master's feet. (Pro tip: if you see a dog guide like me wearing a harness, that means we're still on the job, even if we're lying down.)

Then, we got to go outside in the sunshine and meet some of my fellow canines. A dog named Krokus showed how to navigate obstacles (traffic cones, poles, barriers, and overhanging objects) with his trainer. I remember how hard it was to learn those things so I was very proud of him! We also saw a German Shepherd puppy named Gremlin, who was just a baby but everyone said was very cute.

Gremlin and Krokus, two guide dog puppies sniffing each others' faces

After lunch, we got to take a tour of the campus. Everyone knows that we dogs have to go through training, but did you know that our dog guide masters have to go to school too? They live on campus with us for a month and we learn how humans and guide dogs work together.

Then, all the humans got to learn what it was like to be guided by a dog guide. The sighted people wore blindfolds. Everyone was surprised how fast we dog guides walk. (I don't know why they were so surprised—we've got places to go!) When a dog guides you, you hold the harness with your left hand and keep your arm bent at the elbow. You command the dog with your voice and by moving your right arm. My master was guided by a different dog, and I only got a tiny bit jealous.

Even though it has been almost 8 years since I was there, it was great to visit my old stomping grounds at The Seeing Eye. Hopefully the humans learned a lot about how important we dog guides are and how hard we work. So, Happy National Guide Dog Month everyone—the next round of treats is on me!

Orientation and Mobility
Getting Around

An Interview with Michael Peters, Tournament-Based Fishing Angler

Recently, our CareerConnect® Employment Specialist, Detra Bannister, chatted with Michael Peters, a tournament-based fishing angler. Michael has glaucoma, which has led to some vision loss, but he has found ways to adapt to his low vision status. Using information from his eye specialist and from AFB, he has learned to continue doing what he loves and is eager to share his knowledge and encouragement as an AFB CareerConnect mentor.

Social Life and Recreation

AFB Remembers Dr. Richard Welsh

On September 13, we lost a brilliant leader and I lost a dear friend, Richard "Rick" L. Welsh, Ph.D. Rick was a driving force in the blindness field and a huge advocate for quality services for people with vision loss. He had the ability to identify challenges and rally the field around critical issues. His professional experience spanned university preparation programs, schools for the blind, and adult agencies; he excelled in every endeavor. He was the first president of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER), the leading professional organization in our field, and his work with AER paved the way for those who followed. One of his most notable contributions to our field was his work as co-editor of Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, first published by AFB in 1980. He also served on AFB's Board of Trustees.

Rick fought a long and courageous battle with cancer for many more years than his doctors thought he would. He was a brave and wonderful person with a fantastic sense of humor. I know I speak for many when I say he will be dearly missed.

To learn more about Rick's life, please read our article in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

In the News

Helen Keller: Our Planet Earth

Helen Keller among cornstalks, circa 1910

As society's focus on the environment has increased it is interesting to note that Helen Keller had a deep respect for the natural world and an innate understanding of the need for a healthy planet. She wrote the following (excerpted here) to Karl Menninger in 1959. Menninger was a leading American psychiatrist and founder of The Menninger Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Dear Dr. Menninger,

It was indeed a delight for me to receive the article, "Conserving and Using Our Open Spaces", for which I thank you warmly. It is thought-provoking and most stimulating. Not only do I love the open spaces for their beauty and tranquility, I also appreciate their necessity in the preservation of mankind. In fact I cannot help feeling that a wise, conservative use of earth’s remaining resources is essential if man is to benefit by world-wide peace and harmony between the peoples. Earnestly I pray that the United States may follow Canada’s life-renewing example in finding techniques to preserve or create systems of preventing our machine age from wiping out all trace of the wilderness…"

Image: Helen Keller among cornstalks in Wrentham, Massachusetts, circa 1910

Helen Keller