Address in Washington, DC (1925)
Below is a speech given by Helen Keller on behalf of AFB in 1925 at the nation's capital.
I am deeply gratified that the cause of the blind of America for which I am working is to be heard here in the chief city of the land. I am indeed grateful to President and Mrs. Coolidge for assisting me so kindly in my work. Truly we are blessed when God raises up for us helpers in high places! Their authority is loving-kindness, their decrees are acts of healing to the unfortunate and the discouraged. I like to think that in Washington I shall find a city of helpers for the sightless. Was it not here that the effort to rehabilitate our blinded soldiers started? Was it not here that appropriations were made to emboss books for the blind? Was not the National Library for the Blind established here? With such a bright record, it seems to me most fitting that Washington should assist in a very special way the American Foundation for the Blind—an organization whose object is to make useful, self-respecting men and women out of the dependent, unhappy blind of this country.
The Foundation is only four years old; but in that short time it has demonstrated its unique value. It grew out of the imperative needs of the blind, and was called in to being by the blind themselves. It is national and international in scope and significance. It seems to me to represent the best and most enlightened thought on our problems that has been reached so far. If the Foundation is only finances and equipped properly, its power for good will be incalculable. It will give new life to large numbers of people who lose their sight when it is too late for them to go to school. It will hold out a helping hand to them in the darkest hour of their tragedy. Through its ministrations they will be enabled to learn to read with their fingers to work in the dark and enjoy some of the satisfaction of life. It will make life more worth living for all the blind by increasing their economic value and giving them more of the joy of normal activity. Remember, living always in the shadow of disaster as they do, they cannot throw off sad thoughts as the seeing can. They cannot find forgetfulness in watching the scenes about them. It is doubly necessary to find occupations suited to their capabilities, and that is what the Foundation seeks to do. I tell you, it will be a centre from which rays of good will and encouragement will shine in to thousands of despairing hearts.
Oh, my friends, this is the vision of better days for the sightless which I have cherished for many years. I stand before you, myself deaf and blind; in halting words I please with you not to let such a splendid and truly American philanthropy fail for want of funds. I was once without hope or joy. I was alone, imprisoned in a dark silent world because no one could communicate with me. Then my teacher came to me, and with a word dropped from her fingers, a ray of light from her soul, I found myself, for the world and found God! It is because she cared about me and helped me to overcome my limitations that my own life has been bright in spite of deafness and blindness. But I cannot rest while I think of the speechless prayers, the lonely, obscure lives of the blind who are not helped as I have been! It is the caring that matters. The gift without the giver is bare. If you care—if we can make the American people care—thousands of unfortunate human beings will look up with new hope, square their shoulder to the burden and play a man's part in the world. Your faith in them will be a staff in their hands, and your kindness a torch in their darkness. This is your responsibility towards the handicapped, and I am sure you cannot help meeting it generously.
I appeal to the people of Washington—to you who are strong and kind, you who have eyes and ears, you who have power and nation-wide authority, to sponsor and foster the work of the American Foundation for the Blind.