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Statue Honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt in Wheelchair Unveiled in Washington

Aired January 10, 2001 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the man who led America through most of World War II was remembered today, as a new statue was unveiled at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. It shows the former president in a wheelchair.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us now from Washington to tell us why some people were troubled by the memorial -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, any troubling feelings are gone now. This is a day of celebration and truly intense emotion for America's 54 million disabled citizens. They were really devastated when this memorial opened back in 1997 without a single statue depicting Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the wheelchair that he used during his four terms as president.

So, this afternoon, when they unveiled this statue, you could not keep the audience back. Everyone wanted to touch this statue, have their picture taken next to it. It was very moving. And, of course, President Clinton was on hand. He himself was here in '97 to dedicate the original memorial, on crutches from having had knee surgery. And he was here today to dedicate this statue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, too, am glad that the statue is built at a scale not larger than life, but life-like, not raised on a pedestal, but available, touchable for people who are in wheelchairs and for people who cannot see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: The FDR Memorial Commission had originally believed that they were being true to FDR's wishes when they omitted a statue of him in a wheelchair because, obviously, once he was crippled by polio in 1921 at the age of 39, he went to great lengths to conceal his condition from the public. He believed -- again, he was elected to the presidency in 1933 -- he believed he needed to be perceived as a powerful man.

And in those days of times, people who were disabled were considered weak. They were often called shut-ins and they didn't even leave their homes. So he didn't believe that was the right image for the president who had to lead the country out of the depths of the Depression and then into World War II, as you said earlier, Natalie. So his family, though, believes now he would be very pleased with this memorial, that it's a wonderful inspiration to disabled people throughout the country and the world -- back to you.

ALLEN: Kathleen Koch, nice ending to that story. Thanks so much.

KOCH: Absolutely.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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