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Warm Springs



Answer Key to Comprehension Test

For a printable version of this test suitable to distribute to a class (without suggested answers) click here.
1.  Can you think of any other world leader who was selected when that person suffered from a major disability? Suggested Response: No. FDR was the first and to our knowledge the only leader of a major country who was selected when he suffered from a major disability.

2.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the U.S. to meet two great threats to its existence. What were they? Suggested Response: (1) The Great Depression and (2) the threat from the Nazis and the Japanese militarists during World War II.

3.  How old was Franklin Roosevelt when he was struck down by polio? Suggested Response: 39 years of age.

4.  Name two of Franklin Roosevelt's accomplishments before he was paralyzed by polio. Suggested Response: Any good answer would include his service as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Additional accomplishments by Roosevelt were that: (1) he won a New York state senate seat in a largely Republican district and pursued a reformist policy in the New York Senate; and (2) he ran for vice-president on the Democratic ticket in 1920.

5.  Who was Theodore Roosevelt and why was he important to Franklin Roosevelt? Suggested Response: There are several reasons, but a good response would include the fact that Theodore Roosevelt was a president of the United States who inspired many young Americans with his view of the presidency as an office that served all of the American people. FDR adopted this model of the role of the president. There are also several less important responses that might also be mentioned in a good answer to this question: Eleanor was TR's favorite niece and, because of TR's popularity, the Roosevelt name was helpful to FDR in his effort to become president.

6.  How many times was Franklin Roosevelt elected President of the United States? List the years in which he was elected. Suggested Response: Four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944.

7.  What offices did Roosevelt hold before he was elected President? Suggested Response: New York State Senator, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Governor of New York.

8.  Why can it be said that polio epidemics are a product of modern sanitation? Suggested Response: A good response will note that when there is a lack of proper sanitation, children are exposed to polio when they are infants or very young. At that time, its effects are usually very mild and can be overcome during development. The immunity acquired by the children protects them from the polio virus when they are older.

9.  What was life like for most disabled people in the U.S. during the 1920s? Suggested Response: In the 1920s almost everyone who was paralyzed simply retired from life. Their disability was thought to be a mark of shame and they were usually relegated to a back bedroom. People avoided the disabled, reacting to fears that they themselves would end up in that condition. The disabled were fair game for jokes and teasing. There were few rehabilitation hospitals and those that existed used rigid therapies that often caused additional psychological or physical injury. With paralysis caused by polio, there was the fear that the disease was contagious.

10.  What was FDR's reaction to the limitations imposed on most disabled people by the society of the 1920s? Suggested Response: He fought against them and never succumbed to them. First, he worked very hard over many years to try to walk again. Second, he established a rehabilitation center and community of disabled people at Warm Springs. He developed new treatments and pioneered new attitudes toward the disabled. Third, he lived his life to the fullest, serving as governor of New York and President of the United States.

11.  What did Roosevelt do with two thirds of his personal fortune? Suggested Response: He used it to buy Warm Springs, which he then gave to a non-profit foundation. Note that Roosevelt had other money coming from inheritance when his mother died.

12.  Name two minor characters in the film that were based on real people who lived in Warm Springs. Describe the parts of the characterization of these individuals that were accurate. Suggested Response: There were at least five: (1) Helena Mahoney was a therapist who came to Warm Springs and helped set up the therapeutic program. She was very important in the development of Warm Springs as a rehabilitation center. (2) Fred Botts came to Warm Springs in a mail car, very ill. FDR nursed him back to health. Mr. Botts became the registrar at Warm Springs and lived there the rest of his life. (3) The mailman, Mr. Watts, read everyone's postcards and told the recipients what the postcards said when he delivered them. If he could see the print through the envelopes he would read the letters, too. (4) Aunt Sallie supervised the pool but was never allowed in it because she was black. She was poor and had no opportunity to save any money for her retirement. She and FDR had long talks and it is thought that her situation was one of the inspirations for the Social Security system. (5) Tom Loyless, a half-owner of Warm Springs, was receptive to the idea of adding a rehabilitation component to resort. He died of cancer soon after FDR met him.

13.  One of the most important advances in the treatment of the disabled that came to characterize Warm Springs was psychological. It had four aspects. Describe at least two of them. (If you can name all four you get extra credit.) Suggested Response: (1) The optimistic, happy attitude. A grim atmosphere characterized most other rehabilitation hospitals of the 1920s. (2) The polios at Warm Springs were encouraged to do the most that they could with the muscles that remained to them. (3) The polios at Warm Springs were encouraged to become as self-reliant as possible. (4) Life at Warm Springs was as normal as possible with formal meals, picnics, entertainments etc. Normal life, dating, flirting, card games, etc. were encouraged.

14.  What is similar about the leadership that Roosevelt gave to the disabled people who came to Warm Springs and the leadership that he gave to the U.S. during the Great Depression? [The answer to this question counts for three points.] Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. A good response will deal with each of the concepts set out below, agreeing with them or disputing them. An important factor in the New Deal was the transmission of optimism and self confidence. Roosevelt's demeanor during the Great Depression ("The only thing we have to fear is fear itself") was optimistic. The smiling upturned head and the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle epitomized this attitude. The New Deal extended a helping hand to those in need through projects such as the Works Projects Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These were designed to help willing workers find jobs or get training that the private economy no longer provided. Finally, Social Security gave financial independence to the elderly, the largest group of the U.S. population that suffered from physical infirmity.

15.  How did Roosevelt's paralysis and his experiences at Warm Springs help strengthen his character? (The answer to this question counts for three points.)Suggested Response: There is no one right answer. A good answer will mention humility, patience and an understanding of his connection with all other people. Before he contracted polio, Roosevelt had led a privileged life that set him apart from common people. Paralysis showed him that he was susceptible to the vagaries of fortune just like everyone else. The community at Warm Springs was made up of people who were not wealthy, privileged, or particularly accomplished. They were just ordinary people who were paralyzed, each with their own strengths and their own needs. His association with the polios at Warm Springs allowed FDR to understand and connect with all people in a much more fundamental way than he would have been able to do had he not been paralyzed and had he not helped to develop a therapeutic community at Warm Springs.

16.  Name as many scenes in this movie as you can that recall real incidents. (You will get one third of a point for each incident. Try to name more than three, because after that you will get extra credit.) Suggested Response: See Helpful Background Section.


Answers to Discussion Questions:

Questions 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14 & 15 in the Comprehension Test are also excellent discussion questions. Discussing these questions in class is excellent preparation for the test.

1.  Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film

2.  Do you agree that Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest president of the 20th century? Defend your position. Suggested Response: While TWM and most historians believe that there is a right answer to this question (i.e., FDR was the greatest president of the U.S. in the 20th century), the purpose of asking this question is to stimulate a debate.

3.  There are several incidents of poetic license in the film in which events are transposed in time or scenes have been created by the screenwriter to illustrate important events or psychological milestones in FDR's life. Name two of them and describe the important events that they portray. Suggested Response: Several are described in the body of the Guide. (1) the interview between Franklin, Eleanor, Howe and Franklin's mother concerning the future of the Roosevelt's marriage, which illustrates how the Roosevelts (and their extended family, including Franklin's mother and Louis Howe) decided to keep their marriage, or rather parts of it, together; (2) the scenes in which FDR helps Botts, which stand for the time, whenever it was, that FDR realized that he was disabled, that there was a community of disabled people of which he was a member, which shared with him certain experiences that able bodied people did not have, and as to which he had a strong allegiance; (2) the scene when FDR reads the AOA Report and realizes that he will never really walk again.

4.  FDR led the U.S. to a compassionate and democratic response to the Great Depression. There were other responses that countries in Europe, for example, had to the desperate economic hard times of the 1930s. What were they? Suggested Response: The fascism and racism of Nazi Germany and of Italy.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


1.  How did FDR display courage in the face of his paralysis? Suggested Response: He tried hard to overcome it and he didn't let it limit his horizons, at a time when people assumed that if you were paralyzed you would basically retire from life.

2.  What was FDR's most courageous moment shown in the film? Suggested Response: There is no one correct response to this question. A good response will show that the student watched the film carefully. One example is his speech nominating Al Smith for president.


See Questions 9, 10 and 15 in the Comprehension Test set out above.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(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)

1.  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: 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 ultimately the nation.


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

2.  How does this movie show FDR learning the importance of this Pillar of Character? Suggested Response: When he was brought low by polio and required caring from his wife and others, FDR learned the importance of caring for others. Because of his strength of character and leadership qualities he was able to care for others, at first leading the development of a therapeutic community at Warm Springs, and then leading the country to a compassionate response to the Great Depression.

Last updated May 27, 2009.

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