Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) is my favorite US President. People, when I tell them, assume that I’m a democrat, sometimes. My love of FDR has nothing to do with politics, or my other job as a political scientist, at all. Shortly after the conversation with Granny about my condition my parents took me to Warm Springs, GA to visit President Roosevelt’s Little White House.
My parents have always sought ways to make me feel more comfortable, and to get me to focus not on the bad days or physical limitations I live with. Their focus has always been, and still is, getting me to understand my larger purpose and what I can do. The first visit was to do exactly what I just mentioned. I remember Dad pushing me around the grounds and exhibits (I didn’t have a power chair, yet). He stopped me right in front of FDR’s chair, on display.
He let me absorb what I was seeing, and compare it to mine, as much as my extremely young mind had the capability to do. He asked if I understood why President Roosevelt was important, if I had questions, or if I wanted to talk about anything. I don’t remember what I said. I remember vividly what he said. “See that chair, Stace? A man who became president of our country sat in it. If he can do that, in that chair, you can be or do anything you want with your life. Yes, you have challenges, but you can overcome them, with help, he did.
From that day forward, FDR was one of my heroes. I believe my love of FDR sparked my love of American Politics and history later in my life. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe seeds planted eventually grow. I only learned, years later, when FDR is one of your heroes you have gigantic footsteps to try and follow. My junior year of undergrad, I took a presidency class. My term paper was on FDR.
I wanted to know more about the man who inspired so much of my journey. I wanted to learn about what made him, near the top of every well-respected historians’ “Greatest US Presidents” list. Only problem? Two of my classmates had a similar idea. (We could either work in pairs, or alone). This pair of fellow classmates had no idea how formidable my stubbornness could be. I wasn’t budging. My professor told us FDR’s administrations were more than enough for two term papers. After all, he was elected president four times. He asked us each to research and come up with ideas. My paper was about FDR’s expansion of presidential power during the height of The Great Depression. I had no idea that paper would change my life irrevocably.
My professor, so impressed with my work, unbeknownst to me, nominated me to represent my university as a fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) in Washington, DC during my senior year. I was floored. I couldn’t believe this was my life. When he told me and asked if I’d be interested, I wanted to know if he was serious. When he assured me, he was I said yes, without hesitation, because I heard a tiny voice in my spirit say: “Go. Just say yes. Trust me, the details, and the logistical challenges, I’ll work out. Just say yes.” I believe God was nudging me to go. I listened and am glad I did.
In November 2006, mom and I got on an early morning flight to DC. We were both nervous for very different reasons. I can’t tell any of you how many times, before the first conference started, (we went a day early), I thought I want to go home. I can’t do this. Me? I’m not equipped for this. I know nothing. I’m going to let my university down…not to mention everybody who loves me. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to those lies, in my head, and called my (now) chosen brother/journey partner in NYC…instead.
He talked me out of my head and dispelled every single lie. He’s done, what he did, that day an awful lot since we were fifteen. He still does, and yet somehow, he still loves me and believes in me, and our shared journey, without hesitation. However, when our roles are reversed, I do the same for him as he reminds me often. My fellowship year brought me life-long friends (some of whom are chosen family) and the realization that graduate school was the next step in my journey. After all these events, I love FDR even more. How could I not? I’m following in his footsteps, but the trail I’m blazing is unique to my story and gifts.