Happy President’s Day!
Today in the United States, we celebrate the great historical legacy of our leaders. In many ways our presidents are not seen in their humanity, but, instead, through their large shadow and substantial legacy. Today will celebrate their humanity and, through a lens of compassion and resolution, their ability to overcome substantial adversity to lead our great nation. In many ways the history of the United States of America, a country’s relentless spirit to become great, can be see in many of the lives of our presidents. In looking at the humanity of our presidents, we can be inspired to thrive, not just despite disability but oftentimes because of it. In viewing this tremendous legacy in light of compassion of those struggling with disability now, we can reframe historical greatness to something that is achievable for all people.
A Look at our Presidents’ Disabilities and How they Can Inspire Us!
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States and lived his later part of his life, including his presidency, in a wheel chair. He worked hard for civil rights, but even harder to hide his disability from the general public. It has been said that he would never been elected if people would have seen his wheelchair. While this may be true, he is considered one of the the best presidents and a man who advocated for the people of the United States in the throughs of the Great Depression. Perhaps in his chronic illness he found the strength to lead a depressed America into a new era.
Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the most visual disability, many other presidents were thought or know to have what we would consider disabilities. Abraham Lincoln was thought to suffer from major depression and Marfan syndrome. James Madison had epilepsy and many believe that founding father and first president, George Washington, had a learning disability. Woodrow Wilson was dyslexic and Dwight D. Eishenhower was thought to have learning disabilities, as well. Teddy Roosevelt, as a result of an injury, was blind in one eye. Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had hearing impairments will in office. This list isn’t exhaustive, many of our national leaders have had profound disabilities that they have managed to become impactful on a world stage. Is this simply a coincidence?
Does Disability make you a Better Leader?
I would argue, yes (and incidentally so would history). As someone who has dealt with chronic illness and advocates and teaches students with a wide swath of exceptionalities, the amount and type of skills required to live and thrive with a disability, would perfectly align with a leadership position. Learning both how to self-advocate and navigate and manage the difficult waters of having and thriving with a disability, trains people to become effective and inspirational managers, leaders and role models. As we look towards our presidents as guiding forces, remember that they, too, had to manage and thrive despite adversity. When you or your student with a disability is defeated and down remember that learning to effectively manage a disability is not only inspirational but, also, presidential.