Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lessons from the FDR Memorial

Attention Reader! May Contain Dyslexic Spelling!

My internship placement does not start until tomorrow, so I had some time last week on my hands. My partner visited from Massachusetts and we explored Washington together. We also attended the AAPD gala event and interacted with my fellow interns and the staff at AAPD. At the urging of Ginny Thornburgh, we decided to visit the FDR memorial. Ginny had emphasized its significance to the disability movement—placing disability and high office together in tangible form for all to see, and thus making FDR’s disability into something it had not been during his lifetime: visible. And it was wonderful to see FDR captured in life-size in his wheel chair. However, what was most memorable about the Memorial was how it made the larger man and his presidency and its historical period experiential.
It was wonderful to literally feel like you were traversing the FDR presidency, getting a better sense of both Franklin Roosevelt and the era that he defined. On first viewing, the FDR memorial is not as imposing as other monuments like the Washington, or classically beautiful like the Lincoln. But it becomes both of these things and more when someone takes the time to discover it, walking its maze of history, quotations and art, and engaging with all of these things face to face. In the end, I found the cumulative effect of the FDR memorial more powerful then any of the other monuments I saw in the Mall. Unlike the others, I had been forced to engaged with it actively. I had to physically walk through its corridors and was able to literally touch and feel much of it. The experience made me an explorer of history and I left the interaction invested in FDR’s story.
What if we could make disability history something that all had to actively encounter and engage with? 

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