The Ward M. Canaday Center

for Special Collections

The University of Toledo

Finding Aid

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Inscription Committee Records, 1994-2001


Size: 0.5 linear feet

Provenance: Received from Dr. Scott Sandage, Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University, November 8, 2013


Access: Open

Collection Summary: Collection consists of the records of the committee of scholars convened by the National Organization on Disability and the National Parks Service to draft an inscription for the FDR Memorial statue of Roosevelt in a wheelchair.  Also contains documents describing the fight to add the seated statue to the memorial in 1998, and the “Rendezvous with Destiny” campaign to raise money for the statue. 


Subject(s): Disability History, Politics and Government


Related Collections: Hugh Gregory Gallagher Papers, MSS-185

Processing Note: 


Copyright: The literary rights to this collection are assumed to rest with the person(s) responsible for the production of the particular items within the collection, or with their heirs or assigns.  Researchers bear full legal responsibility for the acquisition to publish from any part of said collection per Title 17, United States Code.  The Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections may reserve the right to intervene as intermediary at its own discretion.


Completed by: Tamara Jones, June 2014


Historical Sketch


The story of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial began in 1974, when Lawrence Halprin won the competition to select a design for the proposed project. However, it would be another 20 years before Congress appropriated funding. Controversy arose almost immediately: the winning design did not depict FDR in a wheelchair, which he had used since suffering an attack of polio in 1921. Many in the disability community – among them author and disability rights activist Hugh Gallagher, National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) president Alan Reich, and N.O.D. board member Michael Deland – argued that Roosevelt’s disability was not only an integral part of his character, but that to omit a figure of FDR in a wheelchair would be historically inaccurate. Although FDR was known for hiding his disability from the public for most of his presidency, supporters of showing him in a wheelchair argued that it was not about how the president may have wanted to be depicted, but how he should be.  This view was also supported by historian Scott Sandage, who stated that “the most moving monuments are the ones that focus more on the future than on the past.” Other supporters included former presidents Gerald ford, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush, as well as sixteen members of the Roosevelt family.


The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial was dedicated by President Bill Clinton on May 2, 1997 – without a statue of FDR in his wheelchair. In response, Clinton signed Senate Joint Resolution 29 in July of that year, which authorized an additional statue. The legislation stipulated that funds for the new statue be provided by the private sector, so N.O.D. began the “Rendezvous with Destiny” campaign, which was formed to raise the $1.65 million needed to fund the addition. An inscription on the wall behind the statue containing a quote was also to be part of the updated design, but debate soon began on whose words were to be used. A committee of scholars, chaired by Dr. Sandage, insisted that a quote by FDR would be more appropriate, in order to allow him to “speak for himself” as he had in the other parts of the memorial. However, the committee’s choice was overruled in favor of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. In January of 2001, the life-sized, bronze statue was placed in a fifth “room” near the entrance to the memorial. 



Scope and Content Note


The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Inscription Committee Records consist primarily of email communications and letters documenting the efforts of the National Organization on Disability and others to have a statue of President Roosevelt depicted in a wheelchair added to the FDR Memorial. The emails cover various aspects of the committee’s efforts: speeches delivered by Sandage in support of the additional statue, discussions between the committee and the individuals involved in the creation of the statue, and debates on the selection of an appropriate quotation to be added to the memorial. The messages were arranged in reverse chronological order; this order has been retained within the folders, although the folders themselves are arranged in chronological order. While correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection, there are also several newspaper articles, many of which are opinion pieces expressing either support or opposition to the statue. Other articles contain background information on the creation of the memorial. Most of the clippings are contained within a separate folder, but others can be found scattered throughout the correspondence as well. Additionally, photocopies of some of FDR’s speeches are included along with the committee’s correspondence.


Folder List







Correspondence, 1994-1996



Correspondence, 1997-1998



Correspondence, 1999-2000



Correspondence, 2000 (folder 1)



Correspondence, 2000 (folder 2)



Correspondence, 2000 (folder 3)



Correspondence, 2000-2001



Newspaper Clippings, 1995-1997