Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio in the summer of 1921, resulting in permanent paralysis from the waist down. One year later, he went back to work. Noted historian Geoffrey C. Ward, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Parkman Prize and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, who is himself a polio survivor, investigates the courage and character of the man who became the greatest president of the twentieth century.
“The Comeback,” a selection from A First-Class Temperament, the second volume in Ward’s monumental biography that began with Before the Trumpet, is the story of one extraordinary man’s struggle to regain his feet and reenter public life. Before his illness, FDR’s political future had seemed bright. He knew that pity was poison, that if the public understood the extent of his disability his career would be at an end. Roosevelt, therefore, had to teach himself the impossible: how to walk—or seem to walk—again. This is that journey, following the future president from his disastrous attempt to return to his law office to his triumphant march down the aisle at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, where, leaning on his crutches, he delivered the triumphant “Happy Warrior” speech for ill-fated presidential candidate Al Smith and was hailed as a hero. It was FDR’s new beginning.
Geoffrey C. Ward, historian and screenwriter, is the author of sixteen books, including A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Francis Parkman Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He… More about Geoffrey C. Ward