WE ARE ASKED from time to time, and with a certain asperity, why newspapers never print the good news, and the answer is, of course, that they do, perhaps more often than a lot of readers are aware. The good news, we would argue, usually doesn't hit you with the same force, and lasting impact, as the bad news. We state that, however, only as a general rule. There was a striking exception to it on the front page the other day, a story that was undeniably good news, and yet was as moving and arresting as any so-called bad news we can remember in recent days. We have in mind the account of the life of deaf-and-nearly-blind Clarence Hammond of this city, and of his extraordinary determination to overcome enormous handicaps. The report by staff writer Joseph D. Whitaker told not only of the struggle of an exceptional young man, but also of the faith and courage and patience of a loving mother whose long hard work with her son was rewarded by almost phenctors first told Caretha Hammond when she got German measles during her first pregnancy 19 years ago that the disease wouldn't have any effect on the baby. Not so; three months after Clarence's birth, doctors concluded that he was deaf, had almost no sight and that the handicaps were due to his mother's illness. To top it off, neither the doctors nor any other experts offered Mrs. Hammond much hope that he would ever amount to much. Mrs. Hammond quite simply refused to believe them.
For endless hours during the critical learning years of Clarence's infancy, she worked to communicate with him. In the absence of an appropriate public school program here, Mrs. Hammond succeeded in placing her son in the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass. But here again, it was a struggle. The District at first refused to continue paying a share of Clarence's tuition when he transferred to Perkins five years ago.
Today, Clarence Hammond is an honor-roll student there - considered possibly one of the brightest to attend since Helen Keller. He's been accepted for part-time study in computer technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, when he graduates from Perkins next year, plans to study data processing and computer programming.
The story of Clarence Hammond ought to offer some encouragment to the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 deaf-blind adults and children in the nation today - even if they cannot all hope to overcome their handicaps with quite such stunning success. There is, for example, the hard problem of how to pay for this sort of schooling. A year's tuition for Clarence Hammond is $11,000; the true cost to the school is closer to $35,000. But what about the cost to society of entire lives spent in helplessness? Certainly Caretha and Clarence Hammond are exceptional - but their story should be a source of hope for all who may face what others see as insurmountable handicaps.