Some years ago, there was a young man who wanted to be president of the United States. He came from a good family. His name carried much weight, in the halls of power. He had wealth and privilege, a loving wife and family and he was highly educated.
Yet, some people questioned his ability to lead. In fact, his nickname was, “Feather Duster,” as he was seen as a man who had no real convictions; he was insipid, a flip-flopper, walking through the process of obtaining political office and wasn’t committed to anything. He said he was a man of the people, but that was a joke to many people. He no more knew about the life of a common person than an eagle knew what it was to be a fish.
Today, we have a similar candidate for high office. He’s the child of wealth and position. He's a man who has never had to work hard for anything or ever known want or hardship. He jokes about being unemployed and worrying about getting a “pink slip.” Yet, he could never work another day in his life and still live in the lap of luxury for the rest of his days.
The man from long ago seemed well on his way to success before adult polio struck down. Suddenly his political career ended, many thought. How could ever be elected to any office, let alone president, once people knew he had “infantile paralysis,” as it was often called. He fell into a deep dysphoria and shut himself away from the world, including his family.
Then, he heard about a health spa that was supposed to have healing waters. He journeyed to the place. Initially, he repulsed at what he saw. The spa was in a very poor section of the country. The area and people were not of his standing. Moreover, the “normal” guests didn’t like being around him; they were afraid of catching his disease.
Yet, the man found the strength to remain and start swimming in the waters. He found a degree of strength return to his body. He wasn’t able to walk, but he did improve. He also began to learn more about the people of the area. Their concern wasn’t becoming president one day or spending summers in the Hamptons. They worried about putting food on the table, each day; keeping a roof over their heads; family healthcare and how to maintain their lifestyle in old age.
His days at the spa were illuminating, in many ways. Finally, by using a cane, braces and even a family member to lean on, this man was able to walk short distances. He returned to public life, careful to hide his disability. He re-entered the political sphere. He eventually became governor of the state of New York.
That man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR.
Many people feel that his illness, despite being tragic, was ultimately a positive thing. His polio caused a change in his personality and widened his horizons. He went on to lead the nation through the Great Depression and much of World War II.
The man of today, though I don’t wish ill will, I do wish he might get to know people in the same way Roosevelt did. It’s said to know someone you need to walk a mile in his shoes. Well, today, the man who wants to be president should take quite a few walks! Maybe then, he’d understand what it is to be a regular woman or man in today’s hard times.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.