Franklin D. Roosevelt

Radio Address on the Fourth Birthday Ball for Crippled Children.

January 30, 1937

You are participating in the finest birthday present which you could possibly give me; and at the same time, you are participating in birthday presents to many thousands of children in every part of the country.

Because devoted volunteers, who have worked for the success of the parties tonight, are numbered by the tens of thousands, I cannot, I regret, make personal acknowledgment to each and every one of my appreciation of their unselfish services. I take this occasion, therefore, to thank you all and, in addition, to thank the many other thousands who have written me and telegraphed me.

I cannot express this word of heartfelt appreciation without acknowledging with pride and with satisfaction the splendid response the Nation has made in answering the call of suffering which comes to us from the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. Truly, "one touch of nature makes the whole world kin."

The preliminary response to the Red Cross appeal has been generous and I know that every dollar necessary to help the flood sufferers will be forthcoming from the rest of the Nation. The appeal for our friends in the flood areas is one of high emergency. Through national effort on a national scale, we shall hope in the days to come to decrease the probability of future floods and similar disasters. In the meantime, we propose to meet this emergency.

The problem of infantile paralysis is not in the same sense an immediate emergency. It is with us every one of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. It is an insidious and perfidious foe. It lurks in unexpected places and its special prey is little children. It may appear in epidemic form, in any community.

May I tell you a little history? As most of you know, the Warm Springs Foundation undertook treatment and investigation of infantile paralysis in a very small way in 1927. The first birthday parties were held three years ago, on January 30, 1934. The proceeds from the parties were used, in part, for necessary equipment at Warm Springs, in part for taking care of patients from every section of the country who could not afford the cost of the treatment and, in part, in studying the whole national problem of infantile paralysis. As this study developed three years ago, we came to the conclusion that the work of the Warm Springs Foundation should concern itself far more with the broad national problem of infantile paralysis than with the work of taking care of only a few hundred children each year at Warm Springs, with its necessarily limited accommodations.

Therefore, with the birthday parties on January 30, 1935, and in 1936 the proceeds from these parties in thousands of communities were devoted and, in 1937, will be devoted not to the work at Warm Springs, but to the broader national problem of infantile paralysis. Seventy percent of all the money which has been raised has gone and goes to the care of children crippled by infantile paralysis within their own communities. A committee of doctors and of leading citizens determines how best that money shall be spent in each community. With that determination Warm Springs has nothing to do.

The other thirty percent of the proceeds goes primarily to two objectives. The first is research. Through a special research commission, with the help of a medical advisory committee, outright grants for nearly three hundred thousand dollars have been made to about fifteen of the leading research laboratories scattered through the country.

Much has been learned, much has been accomplished. While it is too early to say that infantile paralysis, in its epidemic form, can be stopped, we hope that through new methods we can soon arrive at a substantial decrease in the number of children who become infected. We believe that we are on the right track.

The second function has taken the form of establishing a central office of coordination. Every year there come thousands of letters from every part of the country, from parents of children who have recently been stricken or from parents of children who were attacked and crippled years ago by infantile paralysis.

When the individual case is brought to the attention of this office of coordination, it is carefully checked and sent to an orthopedic surgeon or an orthopedic hospital or to a nursing service or clinic or to a State society for the handicapped. Some kind of help is obtained—perhaps an operation, or a new wheel chair, or a new brace or a new corset. In many cases good advice or a careful medical examination gives helpful results.

You will see, therefore, that the Foundation has been putting the care of infantile paralysis and the research into its causes on a national basis for the first time. The expense of research and of the national coordination of these cases entirely absorbs the thirty percent of the proceeds of these birthday parties.

You are giving tremendous help, not only to the crippled children of your own community but also to the fight against the continuance of infantile paralysis in the Nation. The work, with your help, is going on. It will not cease until some day the disease itself is brought under control and proper aid has been rendered to all.

I wish that some physical way might be found for me to come in person to each of your parties tonight. I am with you in spirit. I am grateful to you for the splendid work that you are doing, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address on the Fourth Birthday Ball for Crippled Children. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives