Today—on the 131st anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth—I am reminded not only of the leadership demonstrated by one of America’s great Presidents and pioneers in the fight against polio, but also of the work that remains in eradicating the disease. It’s hard to believe that polio, which afflicted FDR nearly a century ago, continues to plague many in the world today.
FDR was only 39 years old when he contracted this disabling disease in 1921. From that point on, he valiantly searched for a way to rehabilitate all who suffered the paralytic effects of polio.
Throughout his presidency and beyond, FDR advocated for those suffering from the crippling condition, offering hope that even those with the disease could succeed. Roosevelt founded Warm Springs, a therapeutic center for victims of polio in Georgia that continues to operate today, and the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
FDR proved that even when the odds are against you, one could still overcome those odds and make meaningful contributions to their country and the world. Roosevelt died in 1945, just seven years short of the introduction of the first polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1952.
I wholeheartedly believe that FDR would be proud of the progress we have made towards the eradication of polio, and equally resolved that the fight must continue until this disease has been eradicated. Today, doctors and volunteers have administered polio vaccines to billions of people around the globe, offering children worldwide a life free from polio. However, while dedicated efforts have reduced Polio cases worldwide by almost 99 percent since 1988, the disease is still endemic in three countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
In celebrating the birthday of this remarkable man, we can each do our part to help eradicate this deadly disease and give a chance at a healthy life to children everywhere. On Friday, Shot@Life will begin “28 Days of Impact,” a month-long initiative to raise awareness about the powerful impact of global vaccines. Throughout February, a series of bloggers will use their influential voices to share stories of the positive impact of vaccines.
In the spirit of FDR’s tenacious fight against polio, I hope that you will join Shot@Life throughout the month of February in celebrating the impact of vaccines and taking action to support U.S. funding for global vaccines– a critical step for building a healthier and more secure world for us all.
I can think of no more fitting way to celebrate the birthday of America’s 32nd president and a pioneer in the fight against polio.