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Disability History, Inspiration

An Open Letter to FDR, Gone, But Never Forgotten

Written by Scott Uecker (Edited by NHU Editor)

Dear Mr. President,

I was searching through historical newspaper archives and I came across a headline from a New York Times Editorial reading: “Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House”. This headline was written after you, Mr. President, had died, just before the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations.

Scholars rate you as one of the top three United States Presidents, and Americans voted you the most admired person of the 20th century. That’s quite a legacy Mr. President!

You were stricken by a paralytic illness and bound to a wheelchair, yet you did not let that stop you! You were permanently paralyzed from the waist down, yet you still learned to walk by swiveling your hips. Though it must have taken tremendous effort, you stood proudly and resolutely, relying on the shoulders of your Aids, during your speeches. You defied your disability Mr. President. You denied its power over you! And in doing so, empowered and inspired an embattled Nation.

Despite, or perhaps in spite of your disability, you lead our nation through some of its most tumultuous times. You made hard decisions that lifted our nation’s most vulnerable populations out of the depths of despair and into an era of hope.

You fought on for three terms, the only President of the United States to do so.

You founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis that is now known as the March of Dimes, and is, to this day, fulfilling your vision.

You guided the United States through the Great Depression. You created government jobs for the unemployed, created the minimum wage, enacted Social Security, reformed and regulated Wall Street and the banks, started the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC), provided farm subsidies for stabilization of farm prices to rescue farmers. This list could go on.

You provided support to the Allied Powers even before the United States officially entered the war, and then after the attack on Pearl Harbor, you commanded the United States through World War II.

All of this turmoil surely took its toll on you Mr. President. And yet, you carried on.

It is rather hard to imagine what modern life would be like for those of us with disabilities had you allowed your disability to define you. You did not let your disability stop you from achieving greatness. You refused to acknowledge its limitations; because of that we are in a position to do the same! You are an inspiration!

Your accomplishments are too numerous to mention them all. Perhaps Jean Edward Smith summarized your legacy best in saying “He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees.”

For many, you will always be remembered as a great President and man. And, it is my wish that during these troubling times we may live in your image, and carry on as you did, without limitations or fear.

Thank you, Mr. President for defying your disability!

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