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  • Hello lovely people,

  • In today's video: can a disabled person become president of the United States of America?

  • And how many disabled presidents have there already been?

  • If you love learning more about the history you weren't taught in school

  • - that's the queer/disabled stuff

  • Then I suggest you subscribe to me and check out my 'historical profiles' playlist

  • where you'll find lots more videos like this one.

  • In 2001, when George W Bush became president, many people asked whether he might have a

  • learning disability like dyslexia due to his frequent mispronunciations and malapropisms.

  • , resulting in nonsensical- and likely humorous- speech. They often occur as errors in natural

  • speech and are more common in people who have dyslexia or similar conditions where the brain

  • is wired slightly differently to the norm.

  • The name comes from the characterMrs Malapropin the 1775 play The Rivals by Richard Brinsley

  • Sheridan. Mrs Malaprop constantly misspeaks to comic effect by using words which don't

  • have the meaning she intends but sound similar to the one she's reaching for. Her name

  • is a reference to the word malapropos, an adjective or adverb meaninginappropriate

  • orinappropriately”, derived from the French phrase 'mal a propos'

  • [babbles in french]

  • [french accent] 'mal a propos'

  • - yes, that WAS my attempt at a French accent.

  • Don't judge me: I'm deaf.

  • - And I will play that card whenever I need to

  • Whilst Bush never confirmed his having dyslexia, and in fact actively denied it, this isn't

  • very surprising. Yes, we now live in a time when a disability, either visual or invisible,

  • can be identified and diagnosed properly, but this wouldn't be the first time a president

  • has hidden having one. Not that I'm saying he actually does have dyslexia.

  • - Public Service Announcement: do not make assumptions about people's medical records

  • Unless they're a dead President.

  • Information on the Presidents I'm talking about here has been released to the public

  • either during or after their term. It's more than just speculating to your friends

  • about that kid at school you're not very keen on.

  • Which is gossip.

  • Look at that, a winding path I led you down just for a PSA.

  • And so I can gossip about dead Presidents.

  • Most people think of Franklin D. Roosevelt when the term 'disabled president' comes

  • up but there have actually been a long line of Presidents with a variety of disabilities,

  • including hearing loss and epilepsy.

  • For the majority of these men-

  • - and they're obviously all men. just saying.

  • For the majority of these men, publicly acknowledging their disability during their lifetime was

  • discouraged but I think it's important that we celebrate them today, to show that being

  • disabled doesn't make you lesser and it doesn't stop you from achieving or leading.

  • Indeed the very first president of the United States of America, George Washington, struggled

  • with what would likely today be diagnosed as a form of dyslexia. He struggled with spelling

  • and grammar and taught himself to correct the problem to a degree. But it didn't stop

  • him from being the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary

  • War and clearly no one cared about stupid old spellings when he was unanimously elected

  • as the first President.

  • I mean that certainly makes my little dyslexic heart happy!

  • Other Presidents believed to have dyslexia were:

  • Thomas Jefferson, who also had a stutter, a personal library containing thousands of

  • books and authored the Declaration of Independence.

  • Woodrow Wilson, who could barely read by the age of 10 but was a great talker and adept

  • in the art of debate, which led to him studying law, becoming president of Princeton University

  • and later the 28th President of the United States. He also suffered a stroke whilst in

  • office that left him partially paralyzed.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, who pushed past dyslexia to become a five-star general, President of

  • Columbia University and 34th President of the United States.

  • And John F. Kennedy. Who does not share my initials, even though people keep telling

  • me they're the same.

  • [error sfx]

  • JFK also had chronic back pain from an accident whilst he was at Harvard college. The injury

  • it left him with was so severe that it initially disqualified him from military service until

  • his father pulled some strings so he could join the navy reserve. He battled through

  • injury to be awarded the Purple Heart and the World War II Victory Medal. Serving in

  • both the House of Representatives and the Senate-

  • - which, can't lie, as a Brit, I'm still a little bit fuzzy on what the difference

  • is thereplease explain like I'm a child.

  • He became the 35th President of the United States in 1960.

  • It wasn't just learning difficulties like dyslexia that presidents dealt with however,

  • 40th President Ronald Reagan was incredibly nearsighted to the extent that he always had

  • to sit in the front row of classrooms. He chose not to correct it however and instead

  • when giving speeches wore a contact lens in just one eye so he could observe audience

  • reactions whilst reading his notes with other other eye.

  • I imagine not at the same time. Still genius!

  • He also wore a hearing aid due to an accident on set as a young actor when someone let a

  • gun off too close to his head.

  • Guns: they are dangerous.

  • Bill Clinton also wore a hearing aid as he dealt with a high-frequency hearing loss.

  • It didn't stop him becoming 42nd President of the United States OR playing saxophone.

  • In earlier times, James Madison, who proposed the first twelve amendments of the Constitution,

  • became the 4th President and was so bright he completed college in just two years, dealt

  • with epilepsy his entire life. Did that stop him? No.

  • - Can you see where this video is going?

  • Even very famous President Abraham Lincoln

  • (look Americans, there are only a handful of your Presidents the rest of the world can

  • name, so?)

  • dealt with a health condition. It is believed he suffered from Marfan Syndrome, which is

  • a genetic disorder of the connective tissues so yay some representation for my connective

  • tissue issue chums! Lincoln also battled depression so severe it caused incapacitating physical

  • ailments. But it didn't stop him being a lawyer, a member of the House of Representatives

  • and President during the American Civil War.

  • Illnesses can inspire Presidents, as Theodore Roosevelt proved: he was nearsighted and experienced

  • severe bronchial asthma as a child that stunted his physical growth. He used this to spur

  • himself on and lived a strenuous life, enjoying nature and serving as lieutenant colonel of

  • the Rough Rider Regiment (which is nice to say) during the Spanish-American War and,

  • obviously, later becoming President of the United States. This physically punishing lifestyle

  • wasn't always a great idea however as during a boxing match he detached a retina which

  • resulted in blindness. So

  • - “Boxing: why do that?”

  • What a hot take(!)

  • It was his fifth cousin and 32nd President who really proved what it takes to overcome

  • physical adversity however. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was partially paralyzed by polio

  • in 1921 but became president just 11 years later, served an unprecedented four terms

  • and led the USA out of the Great Depression and to victory in World War II. He's a big

  • deal.

  • Although dealing with the crippling pain and paralysis of the disease was difficult many

  • believe that this is what helped shape him both as a man and as a president.

  • However, he was determined to be judged on his merits and not seen as just 'the disabled

  • president' so was rarely photographed in his wheelchair and he rarely transferred from

  • chairs or vehicles in front of the public.

  • FDR was born on January 30th 1882 in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York, to businessman

  • James Roosevelt I and his second wife, Sara Ann Delano. His parents, who were sixth cousins-

  • a trend we'll see reappear later- both came from wealthy old families.

  • Growing up he learnt to ride, shoot, row, play polo and lawn tennis. In his teen years

  • he took up golf and was very skilled becoming club champion in his late teen years at the

  • gold club on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, where his family had a summer cottage.

  • I say cottage but I imagine it was very large.

  • He was an average student and athlete but whilst at Harvard University became editor-in-chief

  • of daily newspaper The Harvard Crimson, showing great energy, ambition and the ability to

  • manage others.

  • Franklin began courting his future wife Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he had been acquainted

  • as a child. They were fifth cousins, once removed, and she was the niece of President

  • Theodore Roosevelt. They were married in March 1905, despite his mother, Sara, protesting

  • that Franklin was too young and attempting to break up the couple. Although she liked

  • Eleanor enough she was fiercely possessive of her son and insisted that they move in

  • to the family estate with her after the wedding. She also, along with Franklin, planned, built

  • and furnished a townhouse in New York City

  • With a twin house for herself right next door!

  • Eleanor never quite felt at home in either of these houses but loved the family's vacation

  • home on Campobello Island, which Sara gave to the young couple outright. It was here,

  • on Campobello Island, however that Franklin manifested the symptoms of deadly polio.

  • During the summer of 1921, Franklin, who by this point had been a State Senator and Assistant

  • Secretary to the Navy along with having run for Vice President, was enjoying a day of

  • sailing on his yacht when suddenly he could no longer stand and slipped overboard in icy

  • waters. The following day he was troubled by lower back pain and went for a swim in

  • hopes of easing the soreness. As the day progressed however he felt his legs become weaker and

  • by the third day he could no longer hold his own weight. His skin quickly became very sensitive

  • and eventually even a slight breeze across his body caused great pain.

  • Eleanor could not bear to see her beloved husband in such distress and contacted a number

  • of doctors hoping one would be able to diagnose and remedy his illness. It took over a month

  • before he was diagnosed in late August of that year with infantile paralysis, otherwise

  • known as polio.

  • - The 'infantile' part of that name probably gives you a clue as to why they didn't think

  • about it straight away!

  • It was uncommon for a middle aged person (at the time Franklin was 39) to contract polio.

  • Most cases of the disease were acquired during infancy with the majority of children becoming

  • immune by the age of four. At the time, polio had no known cure and often resulted in full

  • or partial paralysis and the erosion of motor skills. Dr Robert Lovett, an expert on the

  • disease, suggested that Franklin take hot baths to ease his pain and told the couple

  • that in order for a person to combat polio and develop immunity to the disease they must

  • be in good emotional and physical health with a good immune system. Franklin thought back

  • to his youth and realised that he had actually been frequently ill and had been leading a

  • stressful life in politics over the last years that may have weakened his immunity.

  • He thus decided to remove himself from political life in order to begin his rehabilitation

  • at home in Hyde Park, New York. He swam three times a week, recognising that his legs could

  • support the weight of his body in water and that this meant it was a good way to build

  • up strength. By the winter his arms had regained strength and his nervous system was functioning

  • normally whilst his stomach and lower back were slowly improving.

  • His legs had not recovered well and in January Franklin was fitted with leg braces that locked

  • at the knee and allowed him to stand with help. He believed he would one day be able

  • to walk again if he just continued exercising and insisted that he be surrounded bygood

  • cheerthroughout rehabilitation.

  • Not one to slack, Franklin made physiotherapy exercises part of his social schedule and

  • had friends join him for company as he exercised. He also involved his children and family with

  • his daily rehabilitation. Whilst it was difficult for them at first they eventually became comfortable

  • and even proactively involved themselves with his recovery.

  • His wife Eleanor recalled in her autobiography: “The perfect naturalness with which the

  • children accepted his limitations, though they had always known him as an active person,

  • helped him tremendously in his own acceptance of them.”

  • During his rehabilitation process he was contacted by a friend who knew a man cured of polio

  • by thehealing watersof a place called Warm Springs in Georgia. the state. The resort's

  • water came from a mountain and was known to be both extremely pure and rich in mineral

  • content.

  • Ultimately the waters did not cure him, but they definitely helped and, when in 1926 the

  • resort was having financial issues Franklin stepped in and bought the facility, transforming

  • it into a rehabilitation centre for polio patients like himself.

  • Although his efforts and exercises paid off he remained semi-paraplegic. Despite his faith

  • that he would one day walk again he gave himself a personal ultimatum: he either needed to

  • accept himself as he was and return to politics or else give up his political dreams and push

  • himself harder to recover. His stubborn confidence and belief that he could help others by taking

  • office (along with his wife's support) led him to resume his political career.

  • His mother wasn't very pleased butshe probably wouldn't have been unless he was

  • in a bubble of cotton wool and stuck firmly to her side.

  • Although there were public rumours about his health and physical state, not many people

  • knew exactly what had happened to FDR and he was unsure, as he made his way back into

  • political life, how the public would react to his disability.

  • During the 1920s disabled people were treated poorly, often abandoned in asylums, hidden

  • from public view and disregarded by their family. It was thought that disabled people

  • were not employable and had no place in society.

  • It must have been incredibly difficult to stay strong emotionally and risk his cheery

  • confidence whilst making his way back into the public eye. BUT although people were curious

  • about his condition American citizens appeared more sympathetic than embarrassed. This acceptance

  • helped Franklin's good cheer and he ran for governor of New York in 1928. Clearly

  • his disability did not affect voters as he held the governorship for two terms until

  • starting a run for President in the 1932 election.

  • Franklin's political advisors feared that his opponents would call him names and use

  • his disability against him but it was never brought up as a problem throughout his 1932

  • campaign and did not affect public support for him.

  • In private Franklin used a wheelchair that he had personally designed as the chairs of

  • the time were one-size-fits-all, bulky and difficult to get around in.

  • - bringing back my NHS wheelchair memories...

  • Buildings at the time were not generally wheelchair accessible because

  • - why would they be? They actively disliked disabled people being around.

  • Therefore Franklin needed something small, efficient and discreet. He took a dining chair

  • and added small bicycle wheels, backwards to the large back wheels and smaller front

  • wheels that we see today. This meant not only that the chair was small and could more around

  • tight corners but that there was less chair between Franklin and a person standing in

  • front of him. It had the added benefit of being made from an object people were used

  • to seeing in their own houses and thus didn't call a lot of attention.

  • It cannot be said that he was completely comfortable being open about his situation. Although his

  • disability did not directly interfere with his role as President it was assumed that

  • foreign powers, and even his own people, would see his paralysis as weakness rather than

  • seeing the strength it took for someone to come back from such an illness and still take

  • public office.

  • When giving a speech in public Franklin could have chosen to navigate the stage in his wheelchair

  • but he never wanted to give Americans the impression that he was helpless. Instead,

  • to give the impression that he could walk, he would traverse the stage wearing leg braces

  • under his trousers and using a cane on one side whilst holding the arm of another person