Think of some of the great presidents in American history. If you are like me, one of the names that comes to mind is Abraham Lincoln. When people think of him, do they remember he was a hunchback? Would the first thing people say about the ?Great Emancipator? is that he had a funny-looking face? I doubt it. People would hail him as the man who kept a nation together and was killed while doing so.
A monument honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt was unveiled, funded by the National Organization on Disability and other groups. Some were skeptical about showing the former president in a wheelchair, mainly because he wanted to hide it.
In the end, the decision to erect the monument depicting Roosevelt in his wheelchair prevailed because organizers wanted to show him as he was. If they had hidden the wheelchair, they would imply that having a disability is something deserving shame and secrecy. It?s time we publicly acknowledge that Roosevelt had a disability. Hiding history is a disservice and an insult to all.
Another major reason the monument depicts Roosevelt in his wheelchair was that disabled rights activists agreed that if people saw a monument of a president in a wheelchair, they might not be ashamed of their own disabilities.
Everyone has challenges and hurdles to cross. Heroes are people who get past their hurdles, and they should be remembered for it.
Furthermore, people don?t buy into the idea of the ?perfect politician? anymore. Over and over again, we see politicians trying to make themselves out to be ?men of the people.?
Times have changed. Minorities, women and people with disabilities are serving in public office, like Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who is in a wheelchair after losing both legs and an arm in the Vietnam War.
If Lincoln were running again, his looks might prevent him from being elected. TV has changed politics and, unfortunately, appearances matter. But when past presidents held office, looks were not as important as policy choices and public speaking skills. The media protected the president.
Roosevelt chose to hide his condition as much as possible because he didn?t want to show signs of weakness. But the fact remains that he was in office for 12 full years and spent much of that time in a wheelchair.
The monument is not for FDR. It?s for everyone has been influenced by his achievements during the Great Depression and World War II. He led the country through some of its toughest times from a wheelchair.
What he accomplished is a testament to the human spirit, wheelchair or no