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1990s / FDR Memorial Controversy 1996
In 1996, when plans were announced to erect a memorial to the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., an emotionally charged controversy erupted: Should America's only four-term president be shown in a wheelchair? FDR had been crippled by polio as a 39-year-old in 1921--and he went to great lengths to conceal his condition for the rest of his life. Because of the stigma attached to disabilities at the time, the accommodating media of the day kept FDR's secret from the public. Most photos and newsreels of FDR show him seated behind a desk or in an automobile; FDR was seldom photgraphed in a wheelchair or standing with the help of leg braces. Thus, a passionate dispute arose about how to memorialize FDR. Should he be shown as he truly was or as the public remembered him? This photograph shows the result: In his statue, FDR is draped in a cloak, which presumably hides the wheelchair. This compromise did not suit many advocates for the disabled. A smaller statue of FDR, clearly in a wheelchair, was erected near the main memorial in 2001.