Happy birthday to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to being our longest serving President, he led us through two of our darkest chapters: The Great Depression and World War Two.
Regardless of what one thinks of Roosevelt’s presidency or policies, this man deserves a lot of credit for his toughness and ability to fight through a disability that would have stopped many lesser people.
President Roosevelt was stricken with polio at the age of 39. He could only walk short distances with braces. He usually had to be supported by people holding him upright while walking beside him. He was very successful in hiding his disability. Photographers did not take pictures of him in the wheelchair, and very few photos exist to this day. Most Americans did not know of their President’s illness.
In 1997, when President Roosevelt’s memorial was opened in Washington D.C., it included no mention of his polio, wheelchair, or challenges. Advocates for people with disabilities were angered by this. They rightly felt that he should serve as an inspirational model for those with similar challenges.
Various groups who support people with disabilities raised over $1.65 million dollars for a statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair. The first $378 was donated by an elementary school in New Jersey, who held a bake sale for the cause. One of the students proudly said, “We did this because we want people to know the truth.”
The statue with the Wheelchair was added in 2000.
Thank you Franklin D. Roosevelt not only for leading us through the darkest of days, but showing us you didn’t need to be perfect to do it.
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