A life in its prime
meets with sudden decline, loss, and pain,
yet summons the will
to inspire and instill
all the disciplined skill
that we need to fulfill and attain
the hopes we would claim."
- from Life Turns on a Dime,
sung by FDR in Spare A Dime
In 1921, at the age of 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was stricken with polio and left paralyzed from the waist down. Before his illness, he had lived a life of privilege. He had been born into wealth; he had served as assistant secretary of the Navy and had been a candidate for Vice President. Unwilling to accept that his career in public life was over and believing that he would walk again, FDR searched for ways to alleviate his paralysis. A friend told him about how the mineral-rich waters of a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia had helped a young man with polio, and FDR immediately traveled there, despite the objections of his family.
Swimming in the waters at Warm Springs, FDR eventually learned to stand on his own by strengthening his atrophied leg and hip muscles. His success drew national publicity, and other hopeful polio patients traveled to Warm Springs from all over the country. In 1926, FDR purchased the resort and founded Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, a world-renown polio treatment center, still serving individuals with neuro-muscular disorders today. In 1932, early his first term as President, FDR built a tiny six room cottage at Warm Springs dubbed the "Little White House." He stayed at Warm Springs for at least a month every year (except for 1942 at the beginning of World War II) and died at the cottage in 1945.
Lore has it that FDR enjoyed the serenity of the woods behind the Little White House (photo by Spare A Dime composer Kimberly Niemela, above), and that his time at Warm Springs, whether overcoming his own obstacles, sharing experiences with other polio patients, or working alone at the cottage, influenced his design and development of New Deal programs. He wrote, "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach. We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely... Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!"