Less than 50 people have ever held the title of President of the United States. Far fewer have been immortalized in national monuments or in statuary, including those on display at Forest Lawn. Only a select few presidents have had their images on general US currency and coins.
One president is featured on a coin which was associated with an organization he started. The story begins on January 3, 1938, during the tumultuous days of the Great Depression. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis —a disease which was later called polio—was officially founded. A nationwide radio campaign to raise funds kicked off the week before the president’s birthday. The organization’s leader proclaimed, “The March of Dimes will enable all persons, even the children, to show our President that they are with him in this battle against this disease.”
This optimistic pitch collided head-on with the dismal news that the appeal garnered only a trickle of dimes in the days following the first broadcast. In fact, only $17.50 had been sent in to the White House in two days. But what followed became a deluge: by January 29, over 80,000 letters with dimes and dollars flooded the White House mailroom to the extent that official correspondence to the President was literally buried in an avalanche of donations, a total of 2,680,000 dimes or $268,000.
On the eve of his birthday, the President went on the air to express his thanks:
“During the past few days bags of mail have been coming, literally by the truck load, to the White House. Yesterday between forty and fifty thousand letters came to the mail room. Today an even greater number – how many I cannot tell you, for we can only estimate the actual count by counting the mail bags. Therefore… I must take this opportunity…to thank all who have aided and cooperated in the splendid work we are doing.”
When he passed away in1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, having led our nation through the Great Depression, World War II, and the fight against polio, was honored by the Treasury Department with what now know as the Roosevelt Dime—a testament to his struggle with polio and his courage, resilience, and determination to overcome it.