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University of Southern Mississippi, School of Library and Information Science

One Saturday, my library volunteer and I sifted through boxes of archived documents, tracing library acquisitions. Briefly glancing at each signature, my volunteer quickly sifted through one box while I worked with another box. Suddenly, she called me over. The signature, unusually legible, was unexpected. Instead of flowery cursive writing, this signature appeared rigid, as if written above the guide of a ruler. Indeed, a faint, scored line was seen below the signature. We were not only shocked but full of excitement, for it was Helen Keller’s signature that we saw! She had written this letter to garner support for her social causes. Finding this letter was exciting, as nearly everyone has read of her success in spite of the overwhelming odds against her. Being blind and deaf, she overcame many difficulties, succeeding in her personal, academic, and social life.

For anyone acquainted with individuals, as I am, who have lost their sense of vision or hearing, her life may be an inspiration. With these acquaintances, I realize I could never understand the numerous obstacles with which she dealt, those apparent and silent. Additionally, I have read her autobiography, an interesting volume. After reading this volume, I had the opportunity to visit her homestead, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, viewing the water pump where the American Sign Language symbols for the alphabet came alive with the letters spelling w-a-t-e-r.

With this background, I was thrilled to see her signature, testifying of her overall success in life. While not everyone has dealt with these same obstacles, nearly everyone recognizes the courage Helen Keller had. If she accomplished so much, what can be accomplished in our lives if we are willing to persist in spite of existing difficulties?

—BRIANNA BARNARD