Appreciating all that makes America special

Person: Helen Keller

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

I’m sure you know the story of Helen Keller’s childhood, captured without much embellishment in The Miracle Worker. The victim of a fever at age two that left her deaf and blind, Helen had the world opened to her through the tireless work of her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

But it’s not as if she went on to live a quiet and reserved life. Quite the opposite. She graduated from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree. She became an advocate for people with disabilities, speaking and raising money in 39 countries around the world. Her concern for the working classes led her to join Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party. She helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. And she was a suffragette and a supporter of women’s rights.

Helen Keller received many well-deserved tributes to her contributions to American life. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Alabama honored her by placing her image on its state quarter. And she was named to the Time 100 Most Important People of the Twentieth Century as well as Gallup’s Most Admired People of the Twentieth Century.

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