The book Becoming FDR is an excellent account of a specific period in the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945). The author opens his study of FDR in 1920, when he was plotting a bid to become the vice presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, knowing that he lacked the experience and support to become the top dog but also that “the bottom of the ticket was another matter altogether.”
Alas, even though Becoming FDR laboured valiantly “to convince the country that, despite their eight years in power, the Democrats were the party of the future, not the past,” the Republicans won by a landslide. Roosevelt regarded the race and, it seems, himself as miserable failures. But his attention would soon be fixed on another problem, for within a year he would be diagnosed with polio.
By author’s account, it was remaking himself over the seven years following contracting the virus that shaped Roosevelt into the politician we think of today. However, For good or bad, Roosevelt was secretive about the illness, and even as president, he quietly made it known that news photographs of himself with wheelchair or walker were not wanted. When he returned to political life, Roosevelt had to be carried to the stage, but even there he hid himself behind the curtain and made his way to the lectern on his own. This was both deceptive and close to heroic.
The torments continued throughout his four terms as president, during which he was often a visitor to the curative waters of Warm Springs, Georgia, where he died. And usefully, the author writes that even though Becoming FDR was “a privileged child of the American aris¬tocracy…years of illness and convalescence had taught him what it felt like to be forgotten, humiliated, and overlooked as unim¬portant.” The Weekender