Library Collections: Document: Full Text

The Work Of De LEpe

From: Out Of The Dark
Creator: Helen Keller (author)
Date: 1920
Publisher: Doubleday, Page & Company, New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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* Letter to the Revue Géenérale de l'Enseignement des Sourds-Muets*, October, 1912.


With my whole heart I join my deaf fellows in celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Abbé de l'Epée. We celebrate not only his birthday, but also the soul-birthday of the deaf of France and of the entire world. As long as the memory of noble men remains upon earth, there shall be gladness because one was born who, with discerning love saw the bitter need of the deaf, dropped words of peace into the silence of their empty lives, and was a light to their stumbling feet.


I, too, was born again. I, too, have escaped the dread silence into which no message of love, no song of bird, no happy laugh may enter. I, too, have found my way back to the world of men and women, and the gates of knowledge have been flung wide for me. I rejoice in my restoration to the goodness of life.


How much more does it mean to me that thousands upon thousands of my deaf fellows have been taught, have been elevated to the lot of useful human beings! I am filled with tender gratitude to him who with his whole strength laboured that every deaf child might be educated and, despite his infirmity, become a happy worker in the world, adding his share to the common good.


How many devoted men and women have strengthened their hands unto this beautiful work where but one struggling thinker once stood before the world, and preached to the incredulous the gospel of education for the deaf.


1712--1912! What a change, what a transformation in the lot of the deaf, and in the methods of their instruction! Two hundred years ago they had no friend, no helper, no teacher, no school. Now, behold, they are being taught the wide world over from China to America and from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the far north. Behold the thousands who teach and learn, who labour with new methods, new devices, that they may find new roads to a richer life for the deaf.


Before De l'Epée the cause of the deaf was no cause at all. To-day it is not only their cause, but a public cause to which many feel it a great honour to consecrate their lives. Truly this is a day of joy -- the joy of the deaf who can speak, or who, if mute, yet weave sweet words of kinship between themselves and humanity, a joy in which the burden of silence and isolation is forgotten. This is a festival of glad memories, a celebration of all the years in which darkened minds have been filled with the light of knowledge. Only De l'Epée's own work can fittingly be offered as a token of remembrance, a song of praise to our noble benefactor.


Let us then lift up our once mute voices and our once useless hands in witness to the enduring might of his example and his achievement. To-day we stand triumphant at the harvest of patient work. But we cannot celebrate the Abbé's birthday fittingly in one day. The true celebration must be a work ever-increasing and more efficient, a work ever-progressive, not limited to ideas of the past.


May all the deaf and their friends realize this. May they unite, animated by one idea -- the betterment of the condition of the deaf. This is more important than any one's theories or methods of instruction. May this work be carried forward with unrelaxing vigour, until a day comes when no deaf child shall be left untaught, no deaf man or woman left unhelped.