No world leader in recent history has left an image like Franklin Delano Roosevelt has. Fifty-two years after his death he still engenders raging controversy.

In recent days there have been numerous distortions about how widely his disability was known to his admiring public. To me this is a lot of nonsense. I grew up in small town South Carolina and was about eleven years old when Roosevelt died.

I was fully aware of his polio because we saw him in news reels at the local movie house depicting his trips to Warm Springs, Georgia. He was the poster person for the March of Dimes. My parents discussed it with friends and relatives. In fact, it was the image of FDR as a relentless, brave warrior that inspired such loyalty and determination. People believed that if he could rise above his polio, which was greatly feared at that time, they could overcome a great depression.

That image was symbolized by his resonant, self-confident, reassuring voice. His voice was enough to calm the fears of the people and equip them to continue the fight. Here was this man of unbelievable wealth, stricken with polio, who was willing to fight the battles for the poor cotton mill workers and poverty stricken farmers of South Carolina. Who needs Batman with such a leader in the White House?

It was all carried in that voice. Today’s generation of young people cannot possibly imagine an entire family gathering around the radio to hear, “The President” speak. The room was silent. No one dared talk while he was speaking.

FDR more than anyone else in our lifetime relied on his image. He was bigger than life, bigger than any monument. Should he be depicted in a wheelchair at his monument? It doesn’t matter. Should a wheelchair be a part of the display? Of course.

I have spent my career working with people with disabilities and for organizations that offer habilitation and rehabilitation services. FDR offers a role model that states that the disability is a reality but it need not become a handicap. Some call his approach to his disability denial. I call it sound mental health and political magic.

It was his defeat of his infirmity, his refusal to give in, his refusal to wallow in self pity that gave him super person status. Every man, woman, and child in the country could quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Unlike the politicians of today, the vast majority of voters believed him and elected this wealthy, wheelchair bound New Yorker to four consecutive terms as President and would have elected him again had he not died.

Talk about image! FDR was the great communicator. His only possible rival in this century was Winston Churchill.