The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., stands as a testament to an American president who lived a life abiding by the words for which he is most well-known: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The memorial, dedicated in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, is separated into four areas to delineate the four elected terms that Roosevelt served. The statue of the president in his wheelchair is a reminder of the trials and challenges that formed him.
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At age 39, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio and it was that tragedy which changed what National Park Service writer Kathryn Williams said
was a man considered by many to be “spoiled and self-centered, with ‘a deafness to other people’s feelings.’”
As the active, up-and-coming politician who yearned to follow in the footsteps of his cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, accepted that he would be wheelchair-bound for life, Roosevelt apparently struggled to find his future. It was, Williams wrote, a visit to mineral waters in Georgia where the future president would see others with disabilities challenging life head-on.
“This restored his own determination that never again failed him,” Williams wrote. “When he returned to his home in Hyde Park, N.Y., he made plans to continue his political career.”
The memorial pays homage to Roosevelt and the challenges he overcame to lead the country during the Depression and World War II. An engraved quote from his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, spoke of the impact Roosevelt’s illness had on who he became as a leader:
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"Franklin's illness ... gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons — infinite patience and never ending persistence."
Many of Roosevelt’s inspirational and insightful words carved throughout the memorial resonate today.
The memorial draws thousands of visitors every year, reminding them of the things most people know about him as president, as well as less well-known firsts.
“Roosevelt was the first President to make full use of the radio, the first to fly in a plane, the first to appoint a woman to his Cabinet, the first to appoint a Press Secretary, and the first to leave the country in a time of war,” said the National Park Service website
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