W-A-T-E-R: Helen Keller Can Communicate

Posted on November 6, 2011


I get chills just imagining what Helen Keller must  have felt that day in 1877 when she felt the water flowing from a pump in Tuscumbia, Alabama as Anne Sullivan spelled the letters W-A-T-E-R into her hands.

I was fortunate to grow up within 15 miles of Helen Keller’s childhood home.  The story of how Helen Keller moved from  darkness and silence to language, communication and the Presidential Medal of Freedom is so commonplace there that many do not realize the significance of what happened April 5, 1877, when the 7-year-old Helen Keller learned the word W-A-T-E-R.

Over the years, I’ve attended several live performances of The Miracle Worker on the grounds of the Helen Keller home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. I’ve run by the home on many more occasions. I never pass by the Keller family home in Tuscumbia without experiencing a tingle of awe at the dedication and commitment of Anne Sullivan and the courage and intelligence of Helen Keller.

I think my desire to pursue a Ph.D. in Communication grew out of some inherent appreciation for communication that I learned or absorbed from my experiences as a child in Colbert County, Alabama, where I learned about Helen Keller. And there’s another connection (or “thread”) that stems from my initiation into Delta Zeta Sorority, which supports many philanthropic efforts to aid the speech-and-hearing-impaired. I have more to share about this, but I will save it for another post.

This week’s Sunday Sign post is dedicated to the “First Lady of Courage,” to communication, to teachers, and to symbolic signs like the historic water pump in the backyard of a home in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

The Sunday Sign is a weekly feature of The Ben Franklin Follies.


Posted in: History, People