Questions Immemorial

Judy at the FDR Memorial - Washington D.C. 2011

Touring the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was a definite highlight of my recent trip to Washington DC. At the same time, my eyes were opened to how far our society has actually come in accepting a physical disability.

President Roosevelt had residual lower limb paralysis following polio at age 39. He used a wheelchair every day of his four-term presidency. Was America aware of this? Newspaper publicity never showed the chair. Of the 30,000 photos studied for his memoirs, only two were found showing him in the wheelchair.

With the unveiling of his memorial in 1997, President Roosevelt was depicted sitting down with a long cape hiding the wheelchair. The disabled of America protested insisting the president’s disability be made visible: “He was our only president in a wheelchair.” Against the designers wishes, the memorial now exposes FDR’s secret.

Viewing this ‘prologue’ to the memorial, I was struck by how small and alone FDR looks seated in his wheelchair. How small and alone disability can make us feel. Thank God, times have changed.

Back at home, thankful for my trusty wheelchair that gives me the dignity of independence, I grieve President Roosevelt’s obvious shame associated with his. And I ponder how could a key figure on the world stage hide his inability to walk unaided much less hide his wheelchair? Hopefully none of us are living in such bondage.

I welcome your thoughts as I wrestle with this one.


FDR Memorial
FDR Memorial 1 – Washington D.C.

FDR Memorial 2 - Washington D.C.

Judy Signature

About Judy Squier

Judy Squier born without complete legs, learned early on about God's presence in suffering. She's been an inspirational speaker since age thirteen with a passion to help others find God's gold in the rubble of their lives. Judy is the mother of three adult daughters and lives with her husband, David, in southern Oregon.
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2 Responses to Questions Immemorial

  1. Lynnette says:

    I wonder if he was the one who was ashamed of his disability. Perhaps, it was those around him who could not face it, or maybe they were afraid of how the rest of the nation would perceive him. Would they have voted for him as President knowing he was handicapped? Did they think maybe his handicap affected his ability to think? Whatever the reason, it is so sad that he was compelled, either by his own fear, or by the fears of others, to hide the truth. Thank God for you Judy! You are such an insipration to so many!

  2. Rachel Smith says:

    I came across your photo in a google search after I visited this wonderful memorial. I am a professor at Western Illinois University. I am honored that I often am allowed to teach on disability culture. In regards to FDR I teach he was not ashamed, but pragmatic and intelligent. At the time, disability was viewed as weakness. He was an intelligent man that knew the leader of the free world could not be associated with perceptions of this nature. I do wish he would have seized the opportunity to propel the disability rights movement forward. Alas, maybe he knew America wasn’t ready. We have indeed come a long way, but we have a long way to go.

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