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Author James Tobin believes Franklin Delano Roosevelt would not havebecome president if he had not contracted polio.
James Tobin discussed his theory and his new book, The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency (Simon & Schuster, 2013), at University of Toledo’s Carlson Library.
Tobin contends that Roosevelt’s long recovery period kept him out of the presidential race in the mid-1920s when he would not have stood a chance of winning. He also believes that FDR’s public battle to overcome the effects of polio established him as a fighter in the minds of the American public, and this narrative helped him to get elected in the darkest years of the Great Depression. Before polio, FDR was hampered by his image as an aristocrat, but after polio, FDR could present himself as a man of the people willing to fight for the nation’s recovery.
“Polio by itself did not make Roosevelt the man he became,” Tobin
concluded. “But one cannot see Roosevelt in full without a deep
understanding of his encounter with disease and disability. Without the polio virus and what it did to FDR, the history of American life since the 1920s would not be what it has been.”
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