Huffington Post | July 24, 2012 | By Don C. Reed
One recent night in Washington D.C., I saw two statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: one was huge, capturing the outsized spirit of the man, a green-bronze cape sweeping around him. The second was more accurately life-sized, showing a small wheelchair (then made of wood) so that you realized what the man had to endure, as he fought to lead America.
Both statues were accurate.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was America’s only paralyzed president. He lost the ability to control his lower body due to polio, and stayed paralyzed till the day he died.
But he also performed heroically, accomplishing perhaps more than any able-bodied president in our history.
Through the crushing darkness of the Great Depression, FDR and the Democratic party wove America a safety net.
Social Security: different sections which attempted to protect the old, the poor, the sick and the unemployed ;
Securities Exchange Commission to regulate the uncaring greed and cruelty of Wall Street;
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which converted devastating floods to useful hydro-electricity;
These and much more were all made possible by that man in the wheelchair.
I propose we honor FDR– or another wheelchair warrior in your life.
There are roughly 3.3 million Americans in chairs, so chances are you know someone on wheels.
For me, it’s easy. I have numerous wheelchair warrior heroes. Christopher Reeve, of course, the paralyzed Superman who made it seem so natural to take on a medical condition incurable since the dawn of man.
And people you might not know, like Karen Miner and Fran Lopes, who for almost two decades have work quietly behind the scenes to raise money for research for cure.
But my personal pick is my son, Roman Reed.
The first night after his college football accident, when he was lying in bed with his athletic career suddenly ended — he asked for a banner to be made, to hang over his bed, reading: “I CAN, I WILL, I SHALL!”
That’s Roman, and he is still the same today. In the 17 years since his neck was broken, he has never wavered, never ceased believing in the possibility of cure. He looks beyond the confines of his own self, so that the struggle of a little girl named Gwendolyn Strong, paralyzed from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is immediate and vital to him. He knows we are in this fight together, to win or lose.
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