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The Roosevelt Reading Festival

By: , Posted on: July 11, 2016

David Rose FDRL 061816

On Saturday, June 18 the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum hosted its annual reading festival, bringing together authors and audiences for a day-long series of lectures in celebration of the life and career of FDR. Sixteen authors presented at the festival, among whom was David W. Rose, author of Friends and Partners: The Legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Basil O’Connor in the History of Polio, released by Elsevier in March 2016. David’s lecture focused on the evolving perception of FDR’s polio disability during his lifetime and the role of his law partner Basil ‘Doc’ O’Connor in ending the polio epidemics in the United States through the programs of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in the 1950s. The featured books were available at the Library’s ‘New Deal Store’ throughout the day for purchase and book-signing by the authors, all of whom had utilized the archival collections of the Library in their research.

David’s talk explored the paradox of the public perception of FDR as “the cured cripple” (a term often considered offensive today). One focus was his examination of a physical copy of the program issued by the Inauguration Committee on March 4, 1933. The inauguration program boldly stated: “Franklin D. Roosevelt comes to the Presidency in his fifty-second year, over six feet tall, with the torso of a heavy-weight wrestler, all his hair, and a smile that has become famous. … It was in 1921 that he faced his hardest and greatest battle, for he was attacked by what laymen call ‘infantile paralysis,’ a germ horror which nearly killed him and left his legs partially atrophied … an attack which would have rendered the average person a helpless cripple…” In Friends and Partners, David evaluated this body imagery of the President as follows:

Here, in this public document marking the inauguration of the President, the two sides of Franklin Roosevelt are expressed in a stunning contradiction: he embodies the attributes of both a ‘heavy-weight wrestler’ and a ‘helpless cripple.’ That his polio disability was life-changing but ‘would have rendered the average person a helpless cripple’ strongly suggests that he might indeed be considered a ‘helpless cripple’ but that he was most assuredly not an ‘average person.’ The two terms negate each other; the lasting result of his encounter with polio is glossed over; and FDR is revealed as simply a man. (Friends and Partners, p. 55)

The reading festival was an admirable success, proving yet again that the life of Franklin Roosevelt is an inexhaustible subject. The FDR Library and Museum was the first of the presidential libraries, designed by President Franklin Roosevelt himself. The Library was dedicated on June 30, 1941 and commemorates its 75th anniversary this year. It should come as no surprise that President Roosevelt placed his trusted friend and partner Basil O’Connor in prominent administrative and fund-raising roles in the early years of the Library’s existence. The FDR Library continues to provide fascinating and timely programs throughout the year to fulfill its mission “to foster research and education on the life and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and their continuing impact on contemporary life.”march of dimes friends and partners

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Biomedicine & Biochemistry

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