Saturday, October 15, 2011

White House Cites Lincoln's Depression as a Disability

I often wonder what importance I should attach to politicians' efforts to make symbolic gestures towards this or that interest group. Does a Presidential Proclamation honoring the contributions of Native Americans to our nation's social fabric really earn any votes? Does anyone care whether the audience standing behind the President is sufficiently "demographically correct" that their particular race/gender/regionality is represented?

With that said, here's an excerpt from a recent White House blog entry on disability hiring (emphasis mine):
The Tony Coelho Award recognizes commitment and action to employ people with disabilities– in every available position. I was honored to accept this year’s award on behalf of OPM this past Wednesday. It reflects our work towards OPM’s simple goal: Hire the best.

At least two of our presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, lived with disabilities. First-hand accounts tell us that President Lincoln experienced depression. From his wheelchair, President Roosevelt led America through a Great Depression and a World War.
I'm not really interested in going into details, and I still don't know how many votes this sort of thing moves, but I guess today I learned that symbolic gestures have at least a little importance.


Punning Pundit said...

As someone who _actually has depression_, I can say from experience that being told "well, Abe Lincoln was able to get past his issues and lead the country" is not encouraging.

At the same time, I think it's useful to have those examples running around in the world: If a future employer finds out I've got depression, and his first thought is "Just like honest Abe!" I win.

Nick Beaudrot said...

Well, I don't think that's the tone here, so much as "the US govt should do things to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live fulfilling lives". Saying that depression counts as a disability seems important.