On 8 April 2022, the RIAS was proud to host this year’s Roosevelt Lecture by Dr. Sara Polak of Leiden University. In her lecture, Dr. Polak discussed her recent book, FDR in American Memory; Roosevelt and the Making of an Icon.

With the book itself devoted to the construction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a cultural icon in the American memory, Sara Polak devoted her talk to how the representations and memory of Roosevelt’s disability have altered over the decades since his presidency. She described the surprising fashion by which Roosevelt’s disability went from being a closely held secret to a widely known and largely praised attribute by the 1990s.

Particularly focused upon in the lecture was how Roosevelt, while highly conscious of his own potential legacy, was emphatic that he be memorialized in a modest and highly depersonalized manner. Sara Polak sees this as partly an extension of Roosevelt’s long-running efforts not to have his physique represented. Therefore, it is noteworthy that as Roosevelt’s disability became increasingly known to the general public, there emerged successful efforts to see that further memorial projects devoted to him represented this very attribute. Hence, contributing to a thoroughly ironic result, whereby this once closely held secret of the former President, instead, became among one of the most known facts about him.

The invitation can be downloaded here.