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20. Epilogue

Let the half-god play his part well and manfully, and then be content to draw aside when the god appears. Nor should he feel vain regrets that to another it is given to render greater services and reap a greater reward. Let it be enough for him that he too has served, and that by doing well he has prepared the way for the other man who can do better. - Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography

He had been stricken with polio several years ago and had struggled to learn to walk again. He’d put on his heavy leather and steel leg braces, grab his crutches and start to walk down the driveway to the road. It was a long driveway and less than a quarter of the way down he’d have to sit down on the ground and rest. “I’ll try again tomorrow,” he’d say. When it became obvious that he would never improve, that he would always need a wheel chair, that the braces and crutches were almost useless since his pelvic muscles were affected as well as his legs, his wife urged him to go back into politics.

His wife, Eleanor, had nursed him all by herself during the painful first part of his illness. Even though he had deeply hurt her years before and she had never forgotten it, still she cared for him, giving him enemas, catheters, fed him, did everything for him. His mother wanted him to become a “country squire” and retire to his mansion to relax. But his wife and a close friend, knowing he needed some activity and meaning in his life, urged him to return to politics.

In 1905, Eleanor’s Uncle Ted had expressed his faith in him and Eleanor. (Uncle Ted was his hero and he had absorbed his progressive beliefs.)

I am as fond of Eleanor as if she were my daughter, and I like you, and trust you and believe in you....You and Eleanor are true and brave, and I believe you love each other unselfishly....May all good fortune attend you.

So here he was, in steel braces and leaning heavily on his sixteen-year-old son and a cane, ready to walk the forty feet to the podium to nominate Al Smith as next President of the United States. Forty feet was the absolute maximum he could walk with braces and crutches, but the voters needed to believe that he could somehow get around. Just as he got ready to walk to the podium, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and came through the skylight. The crowed cheered as he walked towards the podium leaning heavily on James. Then He spoke:

I ask you...to keep first in your hearts and minds the words of Abraham Lincoln - “with malice toward none, and charity for all.”

They cheered for one hour and thirteen minutes.1