Tag Archives: American Civil Liberties Union

Helen Keller: Overcame Disabilities

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Photograph of Helen Keller at age 8 with her t...

Photograph of Helen Keller at age 8 with her tutor Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to Arthur H. Keller and Kate Adams. At 6 months, Helen began to talk but at 18 months, she became ill with “brain fever,” now believed to be meningitis or scarlet fever. Her mother quickly discovered that Keller became blind, dead, and mute. As a child, she developed a method of communicated with Marta Washington, the daughter of the family cook. Though she was able to communicate basic terms with her family, she could become wild and throw tantrums, causing family relatives to believe that she should be institutionalized.

In 1886, her mother came across Charles Dickens’ American Notes. It described the successful education of another deaf and blind girl named Laura Bridgman. Keller and her father went to Baltimore to see a specialist, who sent them to Alexander Graham Bell, who sent them to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. The director’s institution recommended recent graduate, Anne Sullivan. In March 1887, Sullivan went to Keller’s home in Alabama. While Helen Keller was first cooperating with Sullivan, she began to object to Sullivan’s teaching so Sullivan demanded Keller be cut off from the rest of the family. A month later, Sullivan taught Keller her first word Water, helping her to make the connection between the object and the letters. Sullivan took Keller out to the water pump, placed Keller’s hand under the spout, and spelled out the word w-a-t-e-r on Helen’s hand. By nightfall, Keller had learned 30 words.

In 1890, Keller began speech classes at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston and learned how to talk. She met Mark Twain, who introduced her to Standard Oil Executive Henry H. Rogers, who paid for Keller to attend Radcliff College. Sullivan continued to stay with Keller, helping her interpret lectures and texts. On 1904, Keller became the first deaf blind person to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.Sullivan went on to marry Harvard University instructor John Macy. When Keller was not traveling, she stayed with them. Keller traveled the country giving speeches on women’s suffrage, birth control, and improving welfare for blind people. In 1920, she help found the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 1936, Sullivan died after suffering from health problems for years. She had bad eyesight her whole life and ended up losing her eyesight completely in 1932. Keller’s secretary, Polly Thompson became Keller’s constant companion. Sullivan died with Keller holding her hand. In 1946, Keller was appointed counselor of international relations for the American Foundation of Overseas Blind. She traveled to 35 countries, inspiring her audience with her story of overcoming disabilities. On September 16, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She died in her sleep on June 1, 1868. Her ashes were buried next to companions Anne Sullivan and Polly Thompson.

Helen Keller was able to overcome her disabilities, inspiring millions that they too could overcome  obstacles in their lives. Keller dedicated her life advocating change for people with disabilities, proving that they were also equal human beings. At that time, people with disabilities were not accepted in society. Besides becoming an advocate for people with disabilities, she also became an advocate for women and the working class. Keller was inspired to be a strong woman because of her mother and her teacher. Her mother refused to send her away, believing that one day she could be educated. Anne Sullivan, dealing with her own eyesight problem, was able to control Keller’s bad behavior, bringing meaning to the girl’s life. A bronze statue of Helen Keller was added to the United States Capitol Visitior Center. It shows Keller as a 7-year-old girl at the water pump, learning how w-a-t-e-r. The plaque is in braille. and reads “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” While I was there, I saw a blind girl reading the braille plaque, witnessing first-hand how Helen Keller continues to inspire.

Sources:

Helen Keller. biography

Helen Keller

Oklahoma Fails to Separate Church from State

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Oklahoma State Capitol

Oklahoma State Capitol (Photo credit: StevenM_61)

On November 16th, a 2,000 pound block describing the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Representative Mike Ritze (R) sponsored the “Ten Commandments Monument Display Act” which states that the Ten Commandments found in the Bible are “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma.” Is he trying to suggest that Oklahoma is controlled by the bible? Because if he is, he did not take high school government since the First Amendment (a law that Oklahoma should actually be following) states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The law clearly states that the government cannot make a law establishing a religion, yet Oklahoma created a religious monument and placed in on government grounds. Also, in the Treaty of Tripoli, sent to the Senate by President John Adams, is written that “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Once again, a founding father points out how the United States is not founded on the Christian religion.

Though the Ten Commandments do have some good laws, like how one should not murder someone else, it also forbids people from believing in other gods. Seeing how this statement is sitting a few feet from the Capitol, it can make other religions feel uneasy, as though Oklahoma may possibly create laws from the Christian religion. As Ryan Kiesel, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma, claims that when “legislatures set up a monument that seems to put one faith above others, it creates an environment where some visitors will feel like second-class citizens.” Another problem is what will happen when other religious start creating laws that support their religious laws to be shown at the Capitol grounds also? If the laws pass, a nice Scientology monument may be the next monument to share space on the Capitol grounds.

At the moment, ACLU has not begun to sue Oklahoma for violating the separation of state and government but the Liberty Legal Foundation promises to represent Oklahoma at no cost. The Liberty Legal Foundation also led legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s place of birth – in other words, Oklahoma will be represented by a bunch of crazies. This is just more proof that Oklahoma is wrong to place religious text on government property.

The fact that there was an actual law about this monument also shows how politicians are wasting their time. Instead of actually trying to help the people, they are wasting time and money creating religious monuments. The tax payers did not pay for the monument since it was raised through private donations and the Ritze family; the fact that people were willing to spend $10,000 to put a bunch of ancient laws near the capitol is insulting to Christians. In the bible, it is mentioned how important donating to the less fortunate are, but people actually thought a historical symbol depicting ancient laws from another country were important. That money could have gone to supporting education, helping the homeless, saving the rain forest; but instead, it went to a monument that contains scripture found in every hotel room in the United States.

Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments

Treaty of Tripoli

First Amendment

First Amendment Oklahoma