Legendary Optimist Helen Keller on Her Greatest Regret
By Maria Popova
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope,” Helen Keller (June 27, 1880–June 1, 1968) wrote in her timeless essay on optimism. But though Keller may endure as a pinnacle of achievement driven by a superhuman spirit, she was also profoundly human — even she was not immune to the vulnerability of insecurity and insufficiency. In this short segment from a vintage documentary, at once heartening and heartbreaking, Keller shares her greatest regret and how she uses it as a springboard for emapthy:
It is not blindness or deafness that bring me my darkest hours — it is the acute disappointment in not being able to speak normally. Longingly, I think how much more good I might have done if I had only acquired natural speech. But out of this sorrowful experience I understand more fully all human strivings, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope.
Complement this with an annotated reading of Keller’s indispensable Optimism and her stirring first experience of dance.
Published June 27, 2013