Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Helen Keller. aka Helen Adams Keller

American Author, Political Activist, Social Reformer, Lecturer and Writer, first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."

"[Told to a 5 year old blind child] Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face."

"I have an unshakable belief that mankind’s higher nature is on the whole still dormant. The greatest souls reveal excellencies of mind and heart which their lesser fellows possess – hidden."

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable."

"I am only one; but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do."

"I believe in immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings. I believe that the state we enter after death is wrought of our own motives, thoughts, and deeds... I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual strong searchlight, illumines the way, and although sinister doubts lurk in the shadow, I walk unafraid towards the Enchanted Wood where the foliage is always green, where joy abides, where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the Presence of the Lord."

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold."

"I believe that only in broken gleams has the Sun of Truth yet shone upon men. I believe that love will finally establish the Kingdom of God upon earth, and the Cornerstones of that Kingdom will be Liberty, Truth, Brotherhood and Service. I believe that no good shall be lost, and that all man has willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist forever."

"I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world."

"Security is almost an illusion (or superstition). It does not exist in nature, nor does humankind as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

"Sick or well, blind or seeing, bond or free, we are here for a purpose and however we are situated, we please God better with useful deeds than with many prayers or pious resignation. The temple or church is empty unless the good life fill it. The altar is holy if only it represents the altar of our heart upon which we offer the only sacrifices ever commanded – the love that is stronger than hate and the faith that overcometh doubt."

"What is the use of such terrible diligence as many tire themselves out with, if they always postpone their exchange of smiles with Beauty and Joy to cling to irksome duties and relations?"

"People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant."

"The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen, not touched, but are felt in the heart."

"The Bible is the record of man’s efforts to find God and learn how to live in harmony with his laws."

"Toleration… is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle."

"Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose."

"No loss by flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed."

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

"A man can't make a place for himself in the sun if he keeps taking refuge under the family tree."

"All about me may be silence and darkness, yet within me, in the spirit, is music and brightness, and color flashes through all my thoughts."

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

"Every modern war has had its root in exploitation."

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope or confidence."

"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."

"It gives me a deep, comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal.""

"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings."

"The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves."

"The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen with the eyes, but only with the human heart."

"Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

"This is a time for a loud voice, open speech, and fearless thinking. I rejoice that I live in such a splendidly disturbing time."

"To be blind is bad, but worse is to have eyes and not to see."

"To compensate for the loss of our major connecting links, people have developed a private set of values based on their own subjective experiences."

"When one comes to think of it, there are no such things as divine, immutable, or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim on them."

"We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world."

"The bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction."

"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."

"The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus — the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."

"Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people."

"Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction."

"Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they could be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep. If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life, — if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing."

"No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right."

"We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses."

"I understand how it was possible for Spinoza to find deep and sustained happiness when he was excommunicated, poor, despised and suspected alike by Jew and Christian; not that the kind world of men ever treated me so, but that his isolation from the universe of sensuous joys is somewhat analogous to mine. He loved the good for its own sake. Like many great spirits he accepted his place in the world, and confided himself childlike to a higher power, believing that it worked through his hands and predominated in his being. He trusted implicitly, and that is what I do. Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts, 'the source and centre of all minds, their only point of rest.'"

"It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference."

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life."

"To know the history of philosophy is to know that the highest thinkers of the ages, the seers of the tribes and the nations, have been optimists. The growth of philosophy is the story of man's spiritual life."

"The highest result of education is tolerance. Long ago men fought and died for their faith; but it took ages to teach them the other kind of courage, — the courage to recognize the faiths of their brethren and their rights of conscience. Tolerance is the first principle of community; it is the spirit which conserves the best that all men think."