Quotations by Keller, Helen


I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfil the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot. Green, the historian, tells us that the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker, and that thought alone suffices to guide me in this dark world and wide. I love the good that others do; for their activity is an assurance that whether I can help or not, the true and the good will stand sure.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” Part 1 (1903)
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Often paraphrased as: "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 1 (1903)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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No matter how dull, or how mean, or how wise a man is, he feels that happiness is his indisputable right.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 1 (1903)
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Added on 16-Feb-15 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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No loss of flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 2 (1903)
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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.

 

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new Heaven to the human spirit.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 2-Mar-15 | Last updated 2-Mar-15
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If I should try to say anew the creed of the Optimist, I should say something like this: “I believe in God, I believe in Man, I believe in the power of the spirit, I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers.”

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 9-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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[P]eople marvel when I tell them that I am happy. They imagine that my limitations weigh heavily upon my spirit, and chain me to the rock of despair. Yet, it seems to me, happiness has very little to do with the senses. If we make up our minds that this is a drab and purposeless universe, it will be that, and nothing else. On the other hand, if we believe that the earth is ours, and that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy upon the hills and gladness in the fields because the Artist in our souls glorifies creation. Surely, it gives dignity to life to believe that we are born into this world for noble ends, and that we have a higher destiny than can be accomplished within the narrow limits of this physical life.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“The Dreams That Come True,” Personality (Dec 1927)

Sometimes abridged as: "Many people marvel when I tell them I am happy. They imagine that my limitations weigh heavily upon my spirit. Yet, it seemst o me that happiness has very little to do with the senses. If we make up our minds that this is a drab and purposeless universe, it will be that. On the other hand, if we believe that the world is ouirs, that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy."

Full text.
Added on 15-May-12 | Last updated 15-May-12
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An opportunity to do kindness is too precious to neglect.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)
Added on 27-Aug-09 | Last updated 27-Aug-09
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Discouraged not by difficulties without, or the anguish of ages within, the heart listens to a secret voice that whispers, “Be not dismayed; in the future lies the Promised Land.”

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)

In Upton Sinclair, ed., The Cry for Justice, ch. 4 (1915)
Added on 25-Oct-10 | Last updated 25-Oct-10
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I do not want the peace which passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)

See Bible, Philippians 4:7.
Added on 26-Apr-12 | Last updated 26-Apr-12
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When you face the sun, the shadows always fall behind you.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)

Variant: "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow." Keller experts at the American Federation for the Blind have been unable to find a source for this quotation.
Added on 28-Oct-13 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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It is certain that I cannot always distinguish my own thoughts from those I read, because what I read becomes the very substance and text of my mind.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
(Attributed)

After being accused of plagiarism. In James R. Kincaid, "Purloined Letters," New Yorker (20 Jan 1997)
Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
Atlantic Monthly (May 1890)
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Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
Let Us Have Faith (1940)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Aug-11
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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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
My Religion (1927)
Added on 15-Nov-13 | Last updated 15-Nov-13
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We should not think of conversion as the acceptance of a particular creed, but as a change of heart.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
My Religion, ch. 6 (1927)
Added on 20-Apr-09 | Last updated 20-Apr-09
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Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men 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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Open Door (1957)
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Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Open Door (1957)
Added on 15-Jan-16 | Last updated 15-Jan-16
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A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Simplest Way to be Happy (1933)
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Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Story of My Life (1905)

The above is the popular paraphrase. The text as in the book was from  a letter from Keller to Rev. Phillips Brooks (8 Jun 1891), which attributed the original thought to her teacher, Anne Sullivan:

I used to wish that I could see pictures with my hands as I do statues, but now I do not often think about it because my dear Father has filled my mind with beautiful pictures, even of things I cannot see. If the light were not in your eyes, dear Mr. Brooks, you would understand better how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart. Every day I find out something which makes me glad.

More here.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Jul-12
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There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Story of My Life, Part 1, ch. 1 (1903)
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Knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge — broad, deep knowledge — is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man’s progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Story of My Life, pt. 1, ch. 20 (1903)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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There is much in the Bible against which every instinct of my being rebels, so much that I regret the necessity which has compelled me to read it through from beginning to end. I do not think that the knowledge which I have gained of its history and sources compensates me for the unpleasant details it has forced upon my attention.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Story of My Life, pt. 1, ch. 21 (1903)
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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.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
We Bereaved (1929)

Also in The Open Door (1957).
Added on 28-Jul-11 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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