‘American Experience’ on Nebraska Public Media Tells Story of Nebraskan with Polio

Photo from American Experience: The Polio Crusade
Young child with polio.

For Immediate Release

‘American Experience’ on Nebraska Public Media Tells Story of Nebraskan with Polio

LINCOLN, Neb. (June 1, 2021) – A young Nebraska boy’s personal account of his life with polio is featured in “American Experience: The Polio Crusade,” airing at 8 p.m. CT, Tuesday, June 15, on Nebraska Public Media.

Larry Becker grew up in Hastings, Neb. He was a Boy Scout, delivered newspapers and played trumpet in the school band. Becker was active and outgoing, and grew up in a time and a place when children enjoyed independence and minimal supervision. Things in his life were going well, until he contracted polio, according to Becker.

He became delirious with fever as the virus penetrated his central nervous system, infecting and destroying the nerve fibers that controlled his muscles. “My legs gave out as I was pedaling my ice cream cart home for lunch,” he explained in an interview included in the “American Experience” episode, which first premiered in 2009.

Becker died in 2018 after a long career as a philosopher of ethics and political philosophy, with a focus on the philosophy of disability and health. At the time, he was a Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Becker spent virtually his whole life in a wheelchair with absolutely no use of his arms and very little use of his legs. He typed the manuscripts for all of his books and scholarly articles with his toes.

“American Experience: The Polio Crusade” pays tribute to a time when fears of the polio virus gripped the nation, and Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The film interweaves the personal accounts of polio survivors with the story of an ardent crusader who tirelessly fought on their behalf while scientists raced to find a medical breakthrough.

The episode also follows the development of the “March of Dimes” campaign and how small, public contributions added up to fund vaccine development. It also focuses on competition between leading vaccine researchers studying effective protection against the crippling disease.

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