Although Presidents’ Day is a national holiday filled with travel plans and department store sales, not many people know why we celebrate Presidents’ Day. Until 1971, Americans celebrated both George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday during the month of February. The two federal holidays were separated by only ten days. In 1971, a new law took effect that created a uniform federal holiday for the two presidential birthdays on the third Monday in February. Although the congress combined the two birthdays to create a holiday to honor and celebrate Washington and Lincoln among other United States leaders, the name was never officially changed from George Washington’s Birthday. In most states, however, it is celebrated also as a state holiday known by a variety of names depending on the state. Some celebrate Washington alone, Washington and Lincoln, or some other combination of U.S. presidents such as Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Here at PYD, we like to recognize some of the individuals who have influenced and supported the disabilities community. In honor of the holiday, here are a few presidents who had a disability:
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
Wilson had dyslexia and struggled with reading his entire life. Despite his disability, he became a professor at Princeton University, an author of an acclaimed book on George Washington, the governor of New Jersey, and the 28th President of the United States.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
FDR was the 32nd President of the United States and also the first president with a significant physical disability. FDR was diagnosed with polio in 1921, at the age of 39. Although dealing with this crippling disease was challenging, many believe that his personal struggles helped to shape him, both as a man and as a president.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Reagan was the 40th President of the United States and also served two terms as governor of California. He used a hearing aid in his right ear early in his term, but later also started wearing one in his left ear. Many say that his hearing was damaged during his early years as a Hollywood actor, when he was exposed to loud gunshot noises during the filming of Western movies.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
JFK was a Harvard graduate and the 35th president of the United States. He suffered from chronic back pain and the learning disability, dyslexia.
Among these four, there are many other presidents who were speculated to have disabilities. These presidents are wonderful examples of strong individuals not allowing challenges to prevent them from achieving great success!