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SUBJECTS — U.S./1913 - 1929; Biography (FDR); Georgia;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Courage; Disabilities;
ETHICAL EMPHASIS: — Responsibility, Caring.
Age: 12+; No MPAA rating but we think it would probably be rated PG; Drama; 2005; 120 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
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Description: This film describes Franklin Delano Roosevelt's struggle against the effects of polio and his leadership in the development of a convalescent community at Warm Springs, Georgia. It shows an important stage in the development of his character. The movie also highlights innovations in treatment for victims of polio, most of them psychological, that Roosevelt helped pioneer at Warm Springs.
Benefits: Warm Springs supplemented by this Learning Guide will (1) acquaint students with the most important U.S. President of the 20th century; (2) demonstrate how FDR's disability helped strengthen his character, giving him empathy for the suffering of others; and (3) enhance learning about Roosevelt's policies to combat the Great Depression by suggesting interesting parallels between the New Deal and the therapeutic community that Roosevelt helped build at Warm Springs.
The film is well-researched and in many respects historically accurate. Like all historical fiction, it takes dramatic liberties by telescoping several events into one or mixing up the time sequence. However, with the two exceptions described below, the movie is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the events that occurred from 1921 to 1928. It shows how FDR tried and failed to regain the ability to walk but discovered something more valuable within himself.
Possible Problems: There are two misimpressions, mostly of emphasis, contained in this film. Correcting them with the information provided by the Learning Guide will turn them into strengths and enhance the benefits of the movie. See Two Misimpressions ...
Parenting Points: Describe for your child the information in paragraphs 1-3, and 9 of the Helpful Background section. Go through the issues outlined in the Benefits section. Then ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question. Stress that FDR was the greatest U.S. President of the 20th century.
Another fascinating point is the way in which FDR patterned his leadership on that of his cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt.
FDR in the Pool at Warm Springs
When historians are asked who they would choose as the greatest Presidents of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ranks with Washington and Lincoln as among the three best. President for twelve years, from 1933 to 1945, FDR helped the U.S. meet two of its greatest challenges. During the Great Depression, he was a beacon of hope that rallied the nation. His policies to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression began the construction of the social safety net on which many Americans rely today. FDR's policies established the regulation of capitalism for the benefit of the people as a basic goal of the federal government. It was under Roosevelt that federal economic policy began to control the effects of the business cycles of boom and bust. These responses seem obvious now, but during the 1930s, important countries in Europe (Germany, Italy, and Spain) were taking the path of fascism and dismantling the democratic structures of their societies. Germany and Italy mixed their fascism with a deadly racism and a desire for military conquest.
In 1939, Germany and Italy launched an all-out assault on the democratic governments in Europe while Japan, dominated by militarists, continued its policy of conquering East Asia. In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the U.S. into the Second World War. FDR rose to the challenge and led the U.S. and its allies to victory.
The American people understood the quality of Roosevelt's leadership, electing him president on four separate occasions. Roosevelt was the only leader of a major nation who rose to power while suffering from a major disability.
While most people knew that FDR suffered some disability, his family, his aides, and primarily FDR himself engaged in a "splendid deception" to make his handicap unnoticed if possible and palatable if not.
FDR in his specially designed Car at Warm Springs
There are striking parallels between FDR's leadership at Warm Springs and his performance as president. During the Great Depression, the United States had a crippled economy and despaired of its future. Important factors in the New Deal were the transmission of optimism and self confidence, extending a helping hand to those in need, and giving the largest population in the U.S. suffering from physical infirmity, its elderly, financial independence. Roosevelt's demeanor during the Depression ("The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.") was optimistic. The smiling upturned head, often sporting a cigarette holder held at a jaunty angle, epitomized this attitude. New Deal projects such as the Works Projects Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were designed to provide willing workers with jobs or training that the private economy no longer provided. Social Security was designed to allow the elderly, a population which had many characteristics in common with the disabled, to maintain their financial independence and therefore their dignity.
In Warm Springs, especially when polio patients first started to arrive, treatment was sketchy, funds were low, and the facilities not adapted to the disabled. However, from the beginning, the psychological benefits paid off handsomely.
The Learning Guide contains several additional paragraphs discussing Roosevelt's disability, his reaction to it, and the innovations that he created at Warm Springs.
CORRECTIONS FOR TWO MISIMPRESSIONS
GIVEN BY THE MOVIE
(1) Before the polio, FDR was more than just a spoiled, rich political opportunist; and
(2) The film doesn't accurately portray Roosevelt's complex and affectionate relationships with women.
The Learning Guide describes how to correct for the two misimpressions.
COMPREHENSION TEST FOR WARM SPRINGS
This test assumes that students have been presented with the information contained in the Helpful Background Section of the Learning Guide.
The Learning Guide provides an answer key and a link to a version of the test on a word processing file suitable to be printed and distributed to the class.
- Can you think of any other world leader who was selected when that person suffered from a major disability?
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the U.S. to meet two great threats to its existence. What were they?
- Name two of Franklin Roosevelt's accomplishments before he was paralyzed by polio.
- Who was Theodore Roosevelt and why was he important to Franklin Roosevelt?
- How did Roosevelt's paralysis and his experiences at Warm Springs help strengthen his character?
- Why can it be said that polio epidemics are a product of modern sanitation?
More questions are on the comprehension test set out in the Learning Guide.
FDR beside the pool at Warm Springs
The Learning Guide contains references to questions on the Comprehension Test that can also serve as discussion questions. A few additional discussion questions are included in the Learning Guide. Suggested answers are provided to some of the discussion questions.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
- How did FDR display courage in the face of his paralysis?
- What was FDR's most courageous moment shown in the film?
TWM's Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
Bridges to Reading: Each of the books mentioned in the Bibliography Section are excellent biographies of FDR. The most relevant to the issues described in the film is "FDR's Splendid Deception." For good high school level readers, it will be an excellent companion to the film.
- FDR's actions in relation to his paralysis met his ethical obligations under the Pillar of Responsibility. What did he do to meet this Pillar in his reaction to the paralysis? To whom was he being responsible? Suggested Response: Suggested Response: FDR's refusal to let the paralysis stop him from living the life he wanted to live and his hard work at trying to walk again showed that he met this Pillar. The person that he was being responsible to, ultimately, was himself, but also his family and the nation.
Links To The Internet
White House Web Site Biography of FDR;
Biography of FDR from the FDR Library. . . .
Additional Links to the Internet are contained in the Learning Guide.
Projects And Activities Students can be asked to do the following:
-Write a paper answering any one or a group of the Discussion Question set out above.
-Give a class presentation, singly or in groups, responding to any of the Discussion Question set out above
In addition to web sites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of the Learning Guide:
-FDR's Splendid Deception by Hugh Gregory Gallagher, 1985, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York;
Updated on October 6, 2011. Adapted for use as a sample on May 27, 2009.
-FDR, a Biography by Ted Morgan, 1985, Simon and Schuster, New York;
-Sunrise at Campobello, A Play in Three Acts, by Dore Schary, Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1957, New York;
-A First-Class Temperament -- The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, by Geofrey C. Ward, 1989, Harper & Row, New York;
-Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash, 1971, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York;
-No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1994, Simon & Schuster, New York.