- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

Now that Bill Clinton has left town, at least momentarily, it may be worth considering what kind of monument we will eventually see erected on the Mall to his presidency. Among the more tasteful ideas might be a statue that makes reference to Mr. Clinton's disability.

After all, Franklin D. Roosevelt is not the only president of the United States to have lived with a disability. Both former presidents Clinton and Reagan have reduced hearing and have used hearing aids while in office. About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some kind of hearing impairment. However, continuing prejudice, embarrassment and stigma attached to "hearing loss" prevents many from seeking help. Perhaps showing Mr. Clinton with a hearing aid might help erase the stigma?

If this idea seems more than a little odd for the theme of hearing loss was not exactly a major part of the Clinton presidency it is really no more so than the idea recently brought to life of showing Roosevelt in a wheelchair. To millions of Americans Roosevelt was the symbol of hope, strength and the renewal of a nation. He saw the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the only president ever to be elected to four terms in office, a feat that a constitutional amendment fortunately prevents Mr. Clinton from attempting to repeat. One thing that Roosevelt was not to his contemporaries was a wheelchair bound.

In his time, Roosevelt did everything to conceal that he used a wheelchair. Of the tens of thousands of photographs taken of him in his presidency, only two show him in a wheelchair. This month, however, a brand new statue of FDR was revealed, depicting him life sized and sitting in his self-designed wheelchair, a kitchen chair which he attached to wheels. Roosevelt is also shown wearing a suit, and the old Fedora hat which he always wore in political campaigns.

What would Roosevelt have thought of it, one wonders, had he been alive to see the statue. Talking of memorials, he once said: "If any memorial is erected to me, I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this desk and placed in front of the Archives Building. I want it plain, without any ornamentation, with the simple carving 'In Memory of'." Instead, he got a seven and a half acre, $53 million memorial that occupies the last major space inside the Washington area, adjacent to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.

Mr. Clinton said at the unveiling of the statue that had FDR been alive, he would have been proud of it. Maybe Mr. Clinton just didn't hear what Roosevelt really had in mind.

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