Franklin D. Roosevelt photo

Radio Address on the President's First Birthday Ball for Crippled Children.

January 30, 1934

Tonight I am very deeply moved by the choice of my birthday anniversary for the holding of Birthday Balls in so many communities, great and small, throughout the country. I send you my greetings and my heartfelt thanks; but at the same time I feel that I have the right to speak to you more as the representative on this occasion of the hundreds of thousands of crippled children in our country.

It is only in recent years that we have come to realize the true significance of the problem of our crippled children. There are so many more of them than we had any idea of. In many sections there are thousands who are not only receiving no help but whose very existence has been unknown to the doctors and health services.

A generation ago somewhat the same situation existed in relation to tuberculosis. Today, because of constant stressing of the subject, the Nation understands the tuberculosis problem and has taken splendid steps not only to effectuate cures but also to prevent the spread of the disease.

The problem of the crippled child is very similar. Modern medical science has advanced so far that a very large proportion of children who for one reason or another have become crippled can be restored to useful citizenship. It remains, therefore, only to spread the gospel for the care and cure of crippled children in every part of this kindly land to enable us to make the same relative progress that we have already made in the field of tuberculosis.

As all of you know, the work at Warm Springs has been close to my heart, because of the many hundreds of cases of infantile paralysis which have been treated there. It is a fact that infantile paralysis results in the crippling of more children and of grownups than any other cause. Warm Springs is only one of the many places where kindness and patience and skill are given to handicapped people. There are hundreds of other places, hospitals and clinics, where the surgeons, doctors and nurses of the country gladly work day in and day out throughout the years, often without compensation.

Warm Springs, through the generous gifts which are being made to the Foundation tonight, will be able to increase its usefulness nationally, especially in the field of infantile paralysis. We shall be able to take more people and I hope that these people will be able to come to us on the recommendation of doctors from every State in the Union. I want to stress, however, that the problem of the crippled child is so great that in every community and in every State the local facilities for caring for the crippled need the support and the interest of every citizen. Let us well remember that every child and indeed every person who is restored to useful citizenship is an asset to the country and is enabled "to pull his own weight in the boat." In the long run, by helping this work we are contributing not to charity but to the building up of a sound Nation.

At Warm Springs the facilities are available, insofar as beds and funds permit, to the rich and to the poor.

The fund to which you contribute tonight will undoubtedly permit us to extend the facilities of Warm Springs in a greater degree than before. I like to think and I would like each one of you who hears me to remember that what you are doing means the enriching of the life of some crippled child. I know and you know that there could be no finer purpose than our will to aid these helpless little ones.

Today so many thousands of welcome telegrams and postcards and letters of birthday greetings have poured in on me in the White House that I want to take this opportunity of thanking all of you who have sent them. From the bottom of my heart I am grateful to you for your thought. I wish I could divide myself by six thousand and attend in person each and every one of these birthday parties. I cannot do that, but I can be and I am with you all in spirit and in the promotion of this great cause for which we all are crusading.

No man has ever had a finer birthday remembrance from his friends and fellows than you have given me tonight. It is with a humble and thankful heart that I accept this tribute through me to the stricken ones of our great national family. I thank you but lack the words to tell you how deeply I appreciate what you have done and I bid you good night on what is to me the happiest birthday I ever have known.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Radio Address on the President's First Birthday Ball for Crippled Children. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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