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Most Say No To Wheelchair In F.D.R. Memorial

Should the new memorial to Franklin Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. depict him in a wheelchair? As the F.D.R. Memorial is readied for its May 2 opening, the debate goes on in Washington, D.C., but the latest CNN poll indicates that a majority of Americans don't think so.

Although he used a wheelchair for much of his life as a result of polio, F.D.R. did not like being photographed in a wheelchair and hid the fact from the public during his lifetime.

But many have complained that excluding any reference to the former president's wheelchair is furthering the perception that a disability is something that should be hidden. Former presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, along with 16 of F.D.R.'s grandchildren and leaders of the disability community, have called for a change to the memorial plans. President Bill Clinton proposed Wednesday adding a statue of F.D.R. in a wheelchair to the memorial.

But in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, only 35 percent of the public feel that the memorial should fully depict F.D.R. in his wheelchair; 60 percent do not feel that way. (Respondents were informed that Roosevelt did not like to be depicted in a wheelchair.)

A third of all Americans consider Franklin Roosevelt an outstanding president, and an additional 36 percent say he was above average. By contrast, only 8 percent said that Ronald Reagan was outstanding in a 1993 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, and 30 percent said he was above average. Only 3 percent felt that Carter was outstanding in the same poll.

The survey of 1,003 adult Americans was conducted April 18-20, 1997, and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Should the F.D.R. Memorial show him in a wheelchair?
Yes 35%
No 60%

Rate F.D.R. as president
Outstanding 32%
Above average 36%
Average 22%
Below average 2%

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