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Did President Roosevelt Purposefully Hide His Disability?
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Did President Roosevelt Purposefully Hide His Disability?

Many conspiracy theorists believe that nearly every President has their secrets. This is nothing new. But sometimes, those secrets have nothing to do with national security or their actual presidency.

Sometimes, it can be more personal. This is evidenced in the fact that not too long ago—just in the last two years or so—news footage of President Roosevelt was shown where he was being pushed in a wheelchair.

At first, it may seem obvious as to why a President wouldn’t want the public to see him in a wheelchair. Whether we like it or not, such news might make the public assume than he is ailing or weak. This was especially true during Roosevelt’s presidency.

Some may not know that Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1929 when he was 39-years-old. Much of the time, he was unable to walk without the aid of leg braces or mobility aids.

He regularly used a wheelchair in his private life but never in public. The footage, which is just a mere eight second clip, was discovered by a professor at Indiana College and shows Roosevelt visiting Pearl Harbor in July of 1944. In the clip, the chair itself is almost totally hidden by a line of sailors and it is assumed that this was intentional.

This clip is being seen as remarkable mainly because of what it adds to Roosevelt’s legacy. This is, after all, the President that served during World War II and the Great Depression.

To know that he was also dealing with these types of personal issues only adds to his character and strength. More than that, he also worked to keep it a secret from the public—a fear in itself when you consider how much attention he was given.

What are your thoughts? Given the era in which Roosevelt served as President, was it a smart strategic move to keep his disability a secret from the public?

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  1. beckthewreck
    Of course he could not afford to let his disability be a focal point. I am a professional and I know that if others become too aware of my disability, then they cannot accept my professional skills. It is even more so in other countries. I must be careful how I use my disability in regard to those I am trying to teach, lead, or help. Often I make it as invisible as possible, unless I can cause an adversary to move away from me and ignore me and my efforts by making it obvious.
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  2. MamaSands
    I am a polio survivor and have been to the Roosevelt museum in Warm Springs Georgia where President Roosevelt retreated to for treatment and relaxation. I feel given the time and the mindset of that time he had no choice but hide what people would see as a weakness. It was not that long ago when anyone who was not "normal" was hidden from the public by family. This was not only true of persons with mental illness but other physical illness, disability or deformity. Society is much more tolerant today and we soon forget the mindset of previous times in history. Even today there are certain forums I experience the mindset where people would prefer not to be reminded of how fragile we all are. Seeing me in a wheelchair is a reminder we are not invincible. Yes, I truly can see how President Roosevelt felt he had to paint his braces black so they would not stand out below his pant leg and Lean on his son or an aid instead of using a cane or crutch. At the same time he was innovative enough to have one of the first cars driven by hand controls, and at his home in Warm Springs Georgia he made his bathroom and bedroom accessible something almost unheard of at the time.. I feel during this time was a true beginning of acceptance of people with disabilities.. Just my 2 cents and personal thoughts.
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