Sen. Mark Kirk published an essay in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, in which he wrote, “I intend to be back at work as soon as possible, working for Illinois and for greater awareness of the challenges we all face from stroke.”
Can Kirk continue to be an effective senator? As his doctor noted, Kirk’s work is “cerebral,” so the difficult he is experiencing in walking will not interfere with his ability to do his job. One advantage for Kirk: as a senator, he’ll be surrounded by staff members who can help him with everyday tasks. There have been plenty of disabled senators in U.S. history. Here’s a partial list.
MAX CLELAND, GEORGIA, 1997-2003: As a captain in Vietnam, Cleland lost his right forearm and both his legs after picking up a grenade that exploded in his hand. He got around in a wheelchair.
THOMAS GORE, OKLAHOMA, 1907-21, 1931-37: Gore went blind as a child, but still served 20 years in the Senate.
BOB DOLE, KANSAS, 1969-1996: Dole lost the use of his right arm as a result of wounds he suffered in World War II. He wrote and shook hands with his left, and needed help opening doors.
JOHN McCAIN, ARIZONA, 1987-PRESENT: Due to beatings received when he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain cannot lift his arms above his head. Aides often comb his hair before TV appearances.
THOMAS D. SCHALL, MINNESOTA, 1925-1935: Blinded by a shock from an electric cigar lighter, Schall was assigned a page to assist him when he was a member of Congress.
JOHN EAST, NORTH CAROLINA, 1981-86: While in his 20s, East lost the use of his legs due to polio.
DANIEL INOUYE, HAWAII, 1962-PRESENT: Lost his right arm in World War II.
TIM JOHNSON, SOUTH DAKOTA, 1997-PRESENT: Like Kirk, Johnson suffered a stroke in 2006. He used a wheelchair when he returned to the Senate.