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Illus.: Tom & Eleanor

I’d like to tell you the story of two children. The parents of the first child were somewhat mismatched. His father was unemployed with no formal schooling. His mother was a teacher. This child, born in Port Huron, Michigan, was estimated to have an IQ of 81. He was withdrawn from school after three months--and was considered backward by school officials. The child enrolled in school two years late due to scarlet fever and respiratory infections. And he was going deaf. His emotional health was poor. He was stubborn, aloof, and showed very little emotion. He liked mechanics. He also liked to play with fire and burned down his father’s barn. He showed some manual dexterity, but used very poor grammar. But he did want to be a scientist or a railroad mechanic.

The second child showed not much more promise either. This child was born of an alcoholic father. As a child she was sickly, bedridden, and often hospitalized. She was considered erratic and withdrawn. She would bite her nails and had numerous phobias. She wore a back-brace from a spinal defect and would constantly seek attention. She was a daydreamer with no vocational goals, although she expressed a desire to help the elderly and the poor.

Who were these two children? The boy from Port Huron became one of the world’s greatest inventors--Thomas A. Edison. And the awkward and sickly young girl became a champion of the oppressed--Eleanor Roosevelt.

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