Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A President who ruled from a wheelchair

The other day I came to know suddenly that Franklin D Roosevelt ruled America during World War II, from a wheelchair. This may not be new for you, but people I talked to after reading this information also were ignorant of this amazing fact. I could not believe that America elected a paralyzed man as its president, and tried to compromise that he might have become polio stricken after he was elected. But I was wrong. Let us make a fast reading into his life story, as I collected the details from various sources which include, “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey and The Presidential biographies on White House.gov by the White House Historical Association.

He was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park. He attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. On St. Patrick's Day, 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt. As a Democrat, he won election to the New York Senate in 1910. He was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920.

An unfortunate disaster hit him in August 1921 at the age of 39. While the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt contracted an illness diagnosed then as polio which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. But he refused to remain defeated. He was a born winner. Roosevelt refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed.

Roosevelt tried to convince people that he was getting better, which he believed was essential if he wanted to run for public office again. Fitting his hips and legs with iron braces and supporting him with a cane, he used to walk short distance. He used a wheelchair, but he was careful never to be seen in it in public. Care was also taken not to be portrayed by the media in a way which would highlight his disability. Only two photographs are known to exist of Roosevelt in his wheelchair; only four seconds of film exist of the "walk" he achieved after his illness. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons. FDR used a car with specially designed hand controls, providing him further mobility. In the public's mind, Roosevelt has been by far the most famous polio survivor.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in November 1932, to the first of four terms, as the 32nd President of America. He assumed the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression. American people had to regain faith in them. So he fixed his priority to regain hope for a better tomorrow. He asserted in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  Roosevelt introduced Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and enormous work relief program for the unemployed. In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin.

As the World War II drew to a close, Roosevelt's health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

There is a lot more untold. But I think that it is sufficient for a depressed soul to be motivated. Sitting in a wheel chair, he led America through the Great Depression to prosperity; planned the United Nations; signed contracts with Russian president, Stalin and led the World War. America elected this paralyzed man again and again to Presidency. I feel that his paralysis motivated America more than any other healthy man.

Yes, if FDR could do that from a wheel chair, how much more great things can I achieve with a better body.

Let me quote some of FDR’s famous sayings too:

"It isn't sufficient just to want - you've got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want.".

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."

"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."

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