The Light of a Brighter Day

Helen Keller - Easton, Connecticut
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, June 5, 2009
Helen Keller
Los Angeles Times archive/UCLA Library

Helen Keller learned to communicate through the eyes and ears of others after a fever left her deaf and blind as an infant. The author, activist and lecturer discusses her vision of faith and how it gives her hope for the future of mankind.

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It is Helen Keller who salutes you. You are not familiar with my voice, but my friend Polly Thomson will interpret the belief I have written from my soul.

I choose for my subject, faith wrought into life apart from creed or dogma. By faith, I mean a vision of good one cherishes and the enthusiasm that pushes one to seek its fulfillment, regardless of obstacles. Faith is a dynamic power that breaks the chain of routine, and gives a new, fine turn to old commonplaces. Faith reinvigorates the will, enriches the affections, and awakens a sense of creativeness. Active faith knows no fear, and it is a safeguard to me against cynicism and despair.

After all, faith is not one thing or two or three things. It is an indivisible totality of beliefs that inspire me: Belief in God as infinite goodwill and all-seeing Wisdom, whose everlasting arms sustain me walking on the sea of life. Trust in my fellow men, wonder at their fundamental goodness, and confidence that after this night of sorrow and oppression, they will rise up strong and beautiful in the glory of morning. Reverence for the beauty and preciousness of the earth, and a sense of responsibility to do what I can to make it a habitation of health and plenty for all men. Faith in immortality because it renders less bitter the separation from those I have loved and lost, and because it will free me from unnatural limitations, and unfold still more faculties I have in joyous activity.

Even if my vital spark should be blown out, I believe that I should behave with courageous dignity in the presence of fate, and strive to be a worthy companion of the beautiful, the good, and the true. But fate has its master in the faith of those who surmount it, and limitation has its limits for those who, though disillusioned, live greatly.

It was a terrible blow to my faith when I learned that millions of my fellow creatures must labor all their days for food and shelter, bear the most crushing burdens, and die without having known the joy of living. My security vanished forever, and I have never regained the radiant belief of my young years that earth is a happy home and hearth for the majority of mankind. But faith is a state of mind. The believer is not soon disheartened. If he is turned out of his shelter, he builds up a house that the winds of the earth cannot destroy.

When I think of the suffering and famine, and the continued slaughter of men, my spirit bleeds. But the thought comes to me that, like the little deaf, dumb, and blind child I once was, mankind is growing out of the darkness of ignorance and hate into the light of a brighter day.

As an infant, Helen Keller was struck by a fever that left her deaf and blind. But with the guidance of her teacher Anne Sullivan, she learned to communicate through the eyes and ears of others. After graduating from Radcliffe College, Keller became a renowned author, activist and lecturer.