Here's a transcript of Rand's statement:
Thank you Senator Coons, for inviting me both figuratively and literally across the aisle to join you on this side. I’m glad to be here today. And for introducing me to this prize that Sandy Greenberg has brought forward to end blindness.
I’m an eye surgeon. I have also done research in glaucoma. I have been a longtime member of Lion’s Club International, whose primary research and primary goal is the prevention of blindness. One of the heroes to the Lion’s Eye movement and to our work worldwide on blindness has been Helen Keller who at the age of 19 months lost not only her vision, but her hearing.
In 1925, she came to the Lion’s Club International with this mandate, and this is part of her speech from that day. She wrote:
“You have heard how, through a little word dropped from the fingers of another, a ray of light from another soul touched the darkness of my mind and I found myself, found the world, found God. It is because my teacher learned about me and broke through the dark, silent imprisonment which held me that I am able to work for others. It is the caring we want for the money, the gift without the sympathy and interest to the giver is empty. If you care, if we can make the people of this great country care, the blind will indeed triumph over blindness. The opportunity I bring to you Lions is this - to foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness, no little deaf, blind child untaught, no blind man or woman unaided.”There is a long history both in our country and in other countries around the world of private philanthropy in these prizes. Going back to the early 18th century, there was a prize for longitude. The Harrisons, father and son, worked for nearly 40 years to develop a clock to precisely measure where they were on the earth to measure longitude.
We currently have something called the ‘X-prize,’ which gave money last year to a company that developed a technology to speed up the cleanup of oil in the ocean after BP’s disaster.A point I found fascinating in Rand's comments is that Hellen Keller was not only blind but also deaf. Think about that for a minute.
Siemens foundation gives a $100,000 prize and it was given last year to a 17-year-old girl from California, who developed a nanoparticle that, with a chemotherapy agent, goes directly to treat tumors. A prize from Siemens was also given to a 15-year-old Benjamin Clark who won the prize for his work in how stars are born.
I love the idea and I think it’s underappreciated of private philanthropy. So today I’m happy to be here with you to congratulate Sandy Greenberg for putting forward this prize, and I hope it will bring some results. I really think that there are within our grasp the ability to treat and hopefully prevent blindness. Thank you.
Wikipedia explains how Keller learned to communicate:
Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf; it was not until she was 19 months old that she contracted an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain", which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. At that time, she was able to communicate somewhat with Martha Washington, the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who understood her signs; by the age of seven, she had over 60 home signs to communicate with her family...Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller's house in March 1887, and immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with "d-o-l-l" for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. In fact, when Sullivan was trying to teach Keller the word for "mug", Keller became so frustrated she broke the doll. Keller's big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of "water"; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.