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HOW BEST TO MEMORIALIZE FDR?

Give the National Organization on Disability credit for cast iron grit and dogged determination. But then what else is to be expected of an organization that is run by the physically handicapped and champions the caused of the disabled?

That persistence is currently on display as the NOD keeps championing what it surely must know is a lost cause. We're referring to the organization's stance on the new memorial to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt that is due to be dedicated in Washington next spring.Though FDR was stricken by polio in 1921 and was subsequently unable to stand unassisted, that fact was not widely known publicly at the time. FDR himself as well as his family and friends thought such knowledge might be fatal to his remarkable political career. Consequently, the new memorial will depict FDR not as he was but as he wanted to be remembered - standing tall.

That depiction doesn't sit well with the NOD, which is still campaigning for at least one statue showing Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

It isn't going to happen - at least not at this particular memorial. But NOD still has a point. The public is no longer nearly as squeamish about wheelchairs, crutches, braces, canes and physical handicaps as it once was. It's hard to believe a memorial like the one the NOD wants would still bother the man who led this nation through its worst depression and its worst war, the leader who told Americans "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

More to the point, such a memorial would be a source of strength and inspiration to disabled Americans for many generations to come.

This situation suggests the need for an end run. Instead of continuing to nag a Washington whose only reaction is to turn an increasingly deaf ear, the NOD ought to consider undertaking its own fund drive for the kind of FDR memorial it wants. It shouldn't be difficult to raise the required money just among the many friends and family members of the 50 million disabled Americans.

Where, then, to display this proposed memorial to the only four-time-elected president who led this nation from a wheelchair? Why, at the headquarters of the National Organization on Disability, of course.