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Keller Johnson-Thompson

Ask Keller

March 2010

Are you curious about some aspect of Helen Keller's life, and haven't been able to find the answer to your question? Ask Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen's great-grandniece. This monthly column features real questions from readers like you.

Please, tell me about Helen's appearance before the Lions Convention in 1925.

While Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan were in San Francisco in 1925, letters began to come in from secretaries and representatives of Lions Clubs begging Helen and Anne to attend the Lions International Convention to be held in Cedar Point, Ohio, that summer. At first they refused, as they were planning to spend the summer in California for their health, but the requests became so urgent that they decided to attend the convention.

The following is the speech that Helen Keller gave to more than five thousand Lions:

Dear Lions and Ladies:
I suppose you have heard the legend that represents opportunity as a capricious lady, who knocks at every door but once, and if the door isn't opened quickly, she passes on, never to return. And that is as it should be. Lovely, desirable ladies won't wait. You have to go out and grab 'em.

I am your opportunity. I am knocking at your door. I want to be adopted. The legend doesn't say what you are to do when several beautiful opportunities present themselves at the same door. I guess you have to choose the one you love best. I hope you will adopt me. I am the youngest here, and what I offer you is full of splendid opportunities for service.

The American Foundation for the Blind is only four years old. It grew out of the imperative needs of the blind, and was called into existence by the sightless themselves. It is national and international in scope and in importance. It represents the best and most enlightened thought on our subject that has been reached so far. Its object is to make the lives of the blind more worthwhile everywhere by increasing their economic value and giving them the joy of normal activity.

Try to imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly stricken blind today. Picture yourself stumbling and groping at noonday as in the night; your work, your independence, gone. In that dark world wouldn't you be glad if a friend took you by the hand and said, "Come with me and I will teach you how to do some of the things you used to do when you could see?" That is just the kind of friend the American Foundation is going to be to all the blind in this country if seeing people will give it the support it must have.

You have heard how through a little word dropped from the fingers of another, a ray of light from another soul touched the darkness of my mind and I found myself, found the world, found God. It is because my teacher learned about me and broke through the dark, silent imprisonment which held me that I am able to work for myself and for others. It is the caring we want more than money. The gift without the sympathy and interest of the giver is empty. If you care, if we can make the people of this great country care, the blind will indeed triumph over blindness.

The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: To foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness? I thank you.

After the meeting the Lions unanimously elected Helen honorary member of the Lions, and pledged themselves to be her knights in the crusade against darkness.

I know that Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904, but could you tell me if she received any other degrees or honorary degrees?

The attainment of a Bachelor of Arts Degree finished Helen Keller's formal school days. Throughout all her life, however, she continued to study and to keep informed on all matters of importance to modern man.

In recognition of Helen Keller's wide knowledge and many scholastic achievements, she received honorary doctor's degrees from Temple University, Harvard University, the universities of Glasglow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; Delhi, India and Witwaterstrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She was also an Honorary Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

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