I’m not sure which way to look at it. Has it been just 20 years? Or, really, was it that long ago?
When you consider that one of the most powerful leaders of their time, the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had a disability, it’s interesting that it took us another 50 years to pass the American’s with Disabilities Act, aka the ADA. I am also reminded that President Roosevelt shepherded us through the most economically challenging time in U.S. history. His claim to historical fame are the social programs that brought the U.S. out of a depression and led the country into a time of economic growth.
FDR has been criticized by some disability advocates for the fact that he went to great lengths to hide his disability (a result of suffering polio prior to taking office). But one cannot deny the fact that during his Presidency, he made incredible strides to support the country’s youngest and oldest citizens, and changed the way the country supports vulnerable citizens.
I find the parallels to the current year quite compelling. FDR was in office during an undeniably unprecedented economic crisis period in our nation’s history. In the present year, 2010, we are faced with the worst economy experienced since the depression of the 1900’s.
FDR’s Presidency represented a major milestone for this country in that he was the first to have a physical disability that resulted in limited mobility. The swearing-in of our current President marks another first, as Barak Obama is the first black man to be elected President.
FDR was in office during a horrific war that has impacted the world’s psyche to this day. The current administration is dealing with multiple violent military conflicts that have influenced every nation on the planet at some level. While it is not of the magnitude of World Wars I & II, it certainly has incited strong feelings and polarized countries.
Decades ago, people feared that Social Security was leading the U.S. down a path towards socialism. Today people fear that Health Care Reform is doing the same.
Eventually, people settled in to the notion that Social Security did not mean the end of democracy. Time will tell if the same will happen with Health Care Reform of 2010.