WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a ceremony today to unveil the Helen Keller statue in the Capitol Rotunda. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“‘She will be as famous a thousand years from now as she is today.’
“Mark Twain, who was her friend, made that prediction for Helen Adams Keller. He was speaking of the fame that runs far deeper than celebrity—the kind that no statue can bestow. We are here today in the faith that this statue, even years after we are gone, will need no explanation. It will be enough to point and say: ‘This is Helen Keller.’
“Her story speaks even to us with eyes to see and ears to listen, even to us who find it almost unimaginable. Her story will still speak to us even in a far-off age when there is no more blindness. Because her journey was a universal one: from silence to speech; from isolation to communication; from self to service.
“To be blind and deaf, observed a contemporary of Helen’s, was to be locked in a marble cell that shut out all light and every sound. But Helen Keller’s insight was that the same cell is waiting for us whenever we allow ourselves to be absorbed by our own thoughts and ambitions, whenever we give ourselves over to selfishness, whenever we deny the living reality of others. Every one of us can find ourselves in an isolation every bit as profound as hers.
“But she also found a way out: first, in communication with her remarkable teacher, Annie Sullivan, who helped her out of her darkness; then, as a writer and a speaker, and an advocate for the disabled and dispossessed. The first words Annie Sullivan spelled into her palm stood for simple, concrete things, like ‘water’ and ‘sun.’ But Helen soon learned that words are also our most powerful key to the minds and struggles and lives of others. Just as we can see ourselves in her loneliness, we can see ourselves in her escape from it, into the world of communication and community.
“This statue can speak to us as long as we understand the truth in these words that Helen wrote when she was nine: ‘I cannot see the lovely things with my eyes, but my mind can see them all, and so I am joyful.’
“Because, in the same spirit, St. Paul wrote: ‘We fix our eyes not on things that are seen, but on things unseen. For what is seen is temporary—but what is unseen endures.’”