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Dedication Marks Successful Conclusion of Five-year N.O.D.- led Campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C.  December 29, 2000 - The National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) was informed today by the White House that President Clinton will dedicate the statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. on January 10, 2001. The statue will be placed at the entrance to the seven-acre Memorial site in Potomac Park, in the Tidal Basin south of the Lincoln Memorial. "This dedication represents a great victory for people with disabilities.  The statue will be an inspiration to people worldwide, disabled and non-disabled alike.  FDR's Memorial will finally acknowledge his significant disability experience, which forged his leadership qualities and enabled him to successfully lead the nation through the worst crises it had ever faced," said N.O.D. President Alan Reich.

The life-size bronze statue is the work of sculptor Robert Graham of Venice, Calif., one of the four sculptors of the original Memorial.  It is an inspirational depiction of President Roosevelt sitting in his wheelchair. FDR never took an unassisted step after he was stricken with polio at age 39 in 1921.  While very few photographs exist of Roosevelt in his wheelchair, he relied on it daily, including during his dozen years as president (he was elected four times, serving from 1933 to 1945).  Further information about Roosevelt's paralysis and its impact on his life and his work can be found at N.O.D.'s website,. 

In the words of N.O.D. Chairman Michael Deland, who led the five year-long Campaign to secure Congressional approval and private sector funding for the statue: "While Roosevelt hid his disability from the public during his lifetime, believing that the country wasn't then ready to elect a wheelchair-user as President, he nonetheless stayed in his chair when it was uplifting to particular audiences, such as when touring veterans hospitals. It's wonderful that the whole world will now know that President Roosevelt led this country to victory in World War II and through the Great Depression from his wheelchair.  FDR's successful leadership proves for all time that it's ability, not disability, that counts."

When the existing seven-acre FDR Memorial was dedicated by President Clinton in May 1997, there was no depiction of FDR's disability, despite protests that had been made by the disability community to the FDR Memorial Commission.  N.O.D. Chairman Deland voiced concern before the Commission in 1995, following which demonstrations and rallies led by N.O.D. brought the issue to national attention.

With strong support from President Clinton, a resolution was adopted unanimously in the United States Senate and by a large majority in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for the addition of the wheelchair statue. The legislation mandated that no public funds be provided and that the monies be raised in the private sector.  N.O.D. formed the Rendezvous with Destiny Campaign Committee and took charge of raising the funds.  Honorary Campaign Chairmen were former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush. (President Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, is also N.O.D.'s Honorary Chairman).

Under the co-chairmanship of Mr. Deland and FDR granddaughter Anne Roosevelt, the Committee raised $1.65 million for the project.  The first gift of $378.50 came from school children at the Lindbergh Elementary School in Palisades Park, N.J.  Gifts from individuals with disabilities and their organizations, contemporaries of President Roosevelt, and people from all walks of life - from all across the country - poured in to the Campaign. Gifts ranged from one dollar to $1 million. The first pledge of $100,000 came from New Jersey businessman Gordon Gund, who is blind, and who contributed $500,000 in total. The Kovler Family, long-time Rooseveltians, contributed $1 million.

Having raised the funds for the statue, the National Organization on Disability worked closely with the Interior Department's National Park Service in the design and construction of the "fifth room" to house the statue at the Memorial and in planning the sculpture itself.  The National Park Service formed an advisory committee composed of disability leaders, architects and other knowledgeable professionals.  The Advisory Committee's work was guided by Lawrence Halprin, the supervising architect of the FDR Memorial.

Throughout the five-year Campaign, Roosevelt family members played a key role.  In a letter to the New York Times, signed by 18 grandchildren of FDR, they stated, "the goal of the FDR Memorial must be to enable future generations to understand the whole man and the events and experiences that helped to shape his character.  We believe that this cannot be accomplished without a commitment to a permanent, meaningful portrayal in the Memorial of FDR's disability and how the process of adjusting to living with his disability made him a better and more able man and President."  Similar sentiments were expressed by disabled and non-disabled leaders from all sectors of American society.

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The National Organization on Disability was founded in 1982. Its mission is to promote the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. N.O.D. is funded entirely by private donations and accepts no government funding.