helen keller

Humanitarian Helen Keller circa 1920.

In a 1954 documentary short, humanitarian Helen Keller expressed that her greatest regret in life was being unable to speak clearly. But given that she could not see or hear, her speech was quite remarkable.

Keller was born in 1880 and, at the age of 18 months, contracted an unknown illness that left her deaf and blind. But with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she was able to overcome her disabilities and become an outspoken advocate for the voiceless and oppressed.

Throughout her life, Keller advocated for peace, women’s rights and the worker’s rights movement. She was a devout socialist and an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Her most lasting work was with the American Foundation for the Blind, which she joined in 1924 and would work for over 40 years. Over that time, she visited 35 countries, met with world leaders, and advocated for improved healthcare and education for those with vision loss.

However, even though her efforts changed the lives of millions, she always thought she could do more if she spoke more clearly. But her inability to do so gave her a greater understanding of the human condition.

"It is not blindness or deafness that bring me my darkest hours. It is the acute disappointment in not being able to speak normally," she said. "Longingly I feel how much more good I may have done, if I had only acquired normal speech. But out of this sorrowful experience, I understand more fully all human striving, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope."