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FDR Informal Extemporaneous Remarks Presenting a $1,000,000 Check to Georgia Warm Springs Foundation

Informal Extemporaneous Remarks of President Roosevelt Presenting a $1,000,000 Check to Georgia Warm Springs Foundation May 9, 1934

[One of the fund raisers devised by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was the “Birthday Balls” – held nationwide each year on FDR’s birthday (Jan. 30) to raise money to search for a cure for polio. With the following remarks FDR was accepting a check for one million dollars to the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.]

The Birthday Ball initiated by your committee for the creation of a fund to further the infantile paralysis work of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation gave me a most happy anniversary last January. I continue to get much genuine satisfaction from this generous action and the wonderful response which was given to your suggestion. In accepting this million dollar check, I want again to express my heartfelt appreciation to all who participated.

The Trustees of the Foundation naturally have given much thought to the proper discharge of the responsibility which you impose on them through this presentation. They have reviewed the work of the Foundation and considered with me the ways and means by which it can be most useful in the future through the added impetus of the fund which you now make available. The plan for utilizing your gift, which I shall outline to you, is based on a realization of the scope of the problem created by a disease which alone accounts for one-third of those people, children and adults, in our country who are crippled from any cause other than injury in accidents.

There are no complete statistics to show just what infantile paralysis has done to our people, but it seems conservative to estimate from figures that we have, that there are at least two hundred thousand people in the United States who bear the marks of it in degrees ranging from the impairment of a few muscles to being reduced to total physical helplessness. A large proportion of this great number, to which new victims are added annually, need after-treatment and care for long periods of time. Treatment cannot be measured in terms of days and weeks but must be computed in months and years. To take care of this number on a hospital basis would require very large sums of money to be expended through many institutions.

This care following the acute stage of the disease and after the damage has been done falls within a highly specialized branch of medicine – namely, orthopaedics [sic] – which requires painstaking, accurate work. It is time-consuming effort to too such a degree as to make it economically unwise and practically impossible to concentrate really large numbers of infantile paralysis patients in any one place. It is of course clear that no one orthopaedic institution can make a dent in the national problem. Only by coordinating the efforts of all these institutions can we hope for real progress toward doing the utmost for the many thousands of victims of infantile paralysis.

Let me pause here to say that the communications which have come to us from all parts of the country since the Birthday Ball have made it more than ever apparent that there is a shortage of properly financed orthopaedic beds in many, indeed most sections of the country. They have also indicated to us that as a result of the new interest built up by your suggestion of a Birthday Ball, at least some of these institutions have received greater local assistance. This work is worthy of enthusiastic and sustained local support.

Modern medical science has advanced so far that a very large proportion of those who for one reason or another have become crippled can be restored to useful citizenship. It remains, therefore, only to spread the gospel in every part of the Nation to enable us to make the same relative progress that we have already made in the field of tuberculosis.

Where does the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation fit into this whole fight against infantile paralysis? Seven years ago we started at Warm Springs, Georgia, an institution to devote its energies to the after-treatment of infantile paralysis. As an institution it has done a modest amount of work. Probably other institutions have rendered treatment to an equal or greater number of infantile paralysis patients as a part of their general work. The work at Warm Springs, however, and the interest in it have resulted in welding together a great band of Americans with a new awareness of the medical, social and economic problems created by this dread disease and with an increased willingness to give more of themselves to the support of those agencies through which the crippled may be benefited.

Thus the Foundation had become more than an institution for the treatment of a limited number of patients. It has become also in effect an organization of those interested in lending their influence and support to the reconstructive work which must be done everywhere in the wake of infantile paralysis. I am not sure but in its final effect this good fortune of the Foundation in interesting so many new friends in the general cause is going to be of even greater importance than its actual work at Warm Springs. The force and help from an enlightened opinion is what the professional workers need to win such a wide-open battle.

With this larger view in mind the Trustees of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation will establish on terms and conditions to be defined by them the following funds from the gift which you bring today:

I. A $100,000 fund to stimulate and further the meritorious work being done in the field of infantile paralysis. It is the present intention that this fund will be used in connection with work done elsewhere than at Warm Springs so that the greatest encouragement may be given to others interested in this problem.

II. A $650,000 fund for the furtherance of the present work done by the Foundation’s institution at Warm Springs, Georgia, and as I have indicated, enabling it to help coordinate the efforts of all engaged in this work, the details, of course, to be worked out by the Trustees. I have no doubt that such coordination and correlation will be of the greatest value. For instance, there can be no doubt that great good will come from any system which permits not only of the exchange of data and information, but also of doctors, phsio-therapists, and visiting nurses, to the end that the best types of care developed anywhere will become the common knowledge and practice of all.

III. A fund of $253,030.08 for building, maintenance and contingencies of the Foundation.

I, therefore, now give to the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation through its treasurer this sum of one million three thousand thirty dollars and eight cents with which to create the three funds just described and totaling this amount, the income or principal of those funds to be used for the purposes indicated. Of course no part of this fund will be used to repay any advances made to the Foundation by any of its officers or trustees.

Once again I thank you and through you all those who have made possible this splendid gift.

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