Four Freedoms


The Four Freedoms were goals articulated
by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. In an
address known as the Four Freedoms speech, he proposed four fundamental
freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:
Freedom of speech Freedom of worship
Freedom from want Freedom from fear
Roosevelt delivered his speech 11 months before the United States declared war on
Japan, December 8, 1941. The State of the Union speech before Congress was
largely about the national security of the United States and the threat to
other democracies from world war that was being waged across the continents in
the eastern hemisphere. In the speech, he made a break with the tradition of
United States non-interventionism that had long been held in the United States.
He outlined the U.S. role in helping allies already engaged in warfare.
In that context, he summarized the values of democracy behind the
bipartisan consensus on international involvement that existed at the time. A
famous quote from the speech prefaces those values: “As men do not live by
bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone.” In the second half of
the speech, he lists the benefits of democracy, which includes economic
opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of “adequate
health care”. The first two freedoms, of speech and religion, are protected by
the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. His inclusion of the
latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional Constitutional values
protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right
to economic security and anticipated what would become known decades later as
the “human security” paradigm in social science and economic development. He
also included the “freedom from fear” against national aggression before the
idea of a United Nations for this protection was envisioned or discussed
by world leaders and allied nations. Historical context
With the end of World War I, the United States adopted a policy of isolationism
and non-interventionism, having refused to endorse the Versailles Treaty or
formally enter the League of Nations. Many Americans remembered the horrors of
the Great War and, believing that their involvement in WWI had been a mistake,
were adamantly against continued intervention in European affairs. With
the Neutrality Acts established after 1935, U.S. law banned the sale of
armaments to countries that were at war and placed restrictions on travel with
belligerent vessels. When World War II began in 1939 with
Germany’s invasion of Poland, the United States was still committed to its
non-interventionist ideals. Though Roosevelt, and a large segment of the
population, supported the Allied cause, neutrality laws and a very strong
isolationist element within Congress ensured that no substantial support
could be given. With the revision of the Neutrality Act in 1939, Roosevelt
adopted a “methods-short-of-war policy” whereby supplies and armaments could be
given to European Allies, provided no declaration of war could be made and no
troops committed. By December 1940, Europe was largely at the mercy of Adolf
Hitler and Germany’s Nazi regime. With Germany’s defeat of France in June 1940,
Britain stood virtually alone against the military alliance of Germany, Italy,
and Japan. Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister of Britain, called for
Roosevelt and the United States to supply them with armaments in order to
continue with the war effort. The 1939 New York World’s Fair had
celebrated Four Freedoms – religion, speech, press and assembly – and
commissioned Leo Friedlander to create sculptures representing them. Mayor of
New York City Fiorello La Guardia described the resulting statues the
“heart of the fair”. Later Roosevelt would declare his own “Four Essential
Freedoms” and call on Walter Russell to create a Four Freedoms Monument that was
eventually dedicated at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Declarations The Four Freedoms Speech was given on
January 6, 1941. Roosevelt’s hope was to provide a rationale for why the United
States should abandon the isolationist policies that emerged from WWI. In the
address, Roosevelt critiqued Isolationism, saying: “No realistic
American can expect from a dictator’s peace international generosity, or
return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression,
or freedom of religion–or even good business. Such a peace would bring no
security for us or for our neighbors. “Those, who would give up essential
liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor
safety.” The speech coincided with the
introduction of the Lend-Lease Bill, which promoted Roosevelt’s plan to
become the “arsenal of democracy” and support the Allies with much-needed
supplies. Furthermore, the speech established what would become the
ideological basis for America’s involvement in WWII, all framed in terms
of individual rights and liberties that are the hallmark of American politics.
The speech delivered by President Roosevelt incorporated the following
text, known as the “Four Freedoms”: “In the future days, which we seek to
make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human
freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and
expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to
worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means
economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy
peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a
world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough
fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical
aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a
kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is
the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted
from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941
The declaration of the Four Freedoms as a justification for war would resonate
through the remainder of the war, and for decades longer as a frame of
remembrance. The Freedoms became the staple of America’s war aims, and the
center of all attempts to rally public support for the war. With the creation
of the Office of War Information, as well as the famous paintings of Norman
Rockwell, the Freedoms were advertised as values central to American life and
examples of American exceptionalism. Opposition
The Four Freedoms Speech was popular, and the goals were influential in the
postwar politics. However, in 1941 the speech received heavy criticism from
anti-war contingents and many pro-liberty advocates within Congress.
Critics argued that the Four Freedoms were simply a charter for Roosevelt’s
New Deal, social reforms that had already created sharp divisions within
Congress. Conservatives and classical liberals who opposed social programs and
increased government intervention argued against Roosevelt’s attempt to justify
and depict the war as necessary for the defense of leftist policies.
While the Freedoms did become a forceful aspect of American thought on the war,
they were never the exclusive justification for the war. Polls and
surveys conducted by the Office of War Information revealed that “self-defense”
of American values, and vengeance for Pearl Harbor were still the most
prevalent reasons for war. Though Roosevelt sought to use the Four
Freedoms as an ideological counter to fascism and a force to mobilize a nation
apathetic to the war in Europe, records suggest that the American people were
more concerned with their own personal experience than liberal humanitarianism.
Hypocrisies In a 1942 radio address, President
Roosevelt declared the Four Freedoms embodied “rights of men of every creed
and every race, wherever they live.” Despite these words, many critics still
claim that minorities were still treated with fewer rights.
Many African Americans fighting in World War II were forced to fight in
segregated units, and African Americans in the United States experienced job
discrimination, with one aviation plant spokesman of the time stating, “the
Negro will be considered only as janitors and in other similar
capacities…Regardless of their training as aircraft workers, we will
not employ them”. Many Hispanics of the era were
discriminated against, as well. For example, in the Zoot Suit Riots white
sailors and Marines attacked Mexican Americans in Los Angeles, California.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized Japanese
American internment with Executive Order 9066, which allowed local military
commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or
all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of
Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of
California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those
in internment camps. By 1946, the United States had incarcerated 120,000
individuals of Japanese descent, of whom about 80,000 had been born in the United
States. United Nations
The concept of the Four Freedoms became part of the personal mission undertaken
by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt regarding her inspiration behind the
United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, General Assembly Resolution
217A. Indeed, these Four Freedoms were explicitly incorporated into the
preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads, “Whereas
disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which
have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human
beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want
has been proclaimed the highest aspiration of the common people….”
Disarmament FDR called for “a world-wide reduction
of armaments” as a goal for “the future days, which we seek to make secure” but
one that was “attainable in our own time and generation.” More immediately,
though, he called for a massive build-up of U.S. arms production: “Every realist
knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed
in every part of the world… The need of the moment is that our actions and
our policy should be devoted primarily—almost exclusively—to meeting
this foreign peril. … [T]he immediate need is a swift and driving increase in
our armament production. … I also ask this Congress for authority and for
funds sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war supplies of
many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war with
aggressor nations. … Let us say to the democracies…'” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms
Park is a park designed by the architect Louis Kahn for the south point of
Roosevelt Island. The Park celebrates the famous speech, and text from the
speech is inscribed on a granite wall in the final design of the Park.
Awards The Roosevelt Institute honors
outstanding individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to
these ideals. The Four Freedoms Award medals are awarded at ceremonies at Hyde
Park, New York and Middelburg, Netherlands during alternate years. The
awards were first presented in 1982 on the centenary of President Roosevelt’s
birth as well as the bicentenary of diplomatic relations between the United
States and the Netherlands. Among the laureates have been:
William Brennan H.M. Juan Carlos of Spain
Jimmy Carter Bill Clinton
The Dalai Lama Mikhail Gorbachev
Averell Harriman Václav Havel
John F. Kennedy Mike Mansfield
Paul Newman Tip O’Neill
Shimon Peres H.R.H. Princess Juliana of the
Netherlands Coretta Scott King
Brent Scowcroft Harry S. Truman
Liv Ullman Elie Wiesel
Joanne Woodward Use in popular culture
=Art=Norman Rockwell’s paintings
President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech inspired a set of four Four
Freedoms paintings by Norman Rockwell. The four paintings were published in The
Saturday Evening Post on February 20, February 27, March 6, and March 13 in
1943. The paintings were accompanied in the magazine by matching essays on the
Four Freedoms. The United States Department of the
Treasury toured Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings around the country after their
publication in 1943. The Four Freedoms Tour raised over $130,000,000 in war
bond sales. Other artwork
In 1941, artist Kindred McLeary painted America the Mighty in the State
Department’s Harry S. Truman Building. In 1942, artist Hugo Ballin painted The
Four Freedoms mural in the Council Chamber of the City Hall of Burbank,
California. In 1943, New Jersey muralist Michael
Lenson painted The Four Freedoms mural for the Fourteenth Street School in
Newark, New Jersey. In 1948, muralist Anton Refregier
completed the “History of San Francisco” in the Rincon Center in San Francisco,
California. Panel 27 depicted the four freedoms.
In the late 1950s, artist Mildred Nungester Wolfe painted four mural
panels depicting the freedoms for a country store in Richton, Mississippi.
Those panels now hang in the Mississippi Museum of Art.
In 1982, Allyn Cox completed four paintings in the Great Experiment Hall
in the United States House of Representatives. Four of the murals
depict allegorical figures representing the four freedoms.
In the early 1990s, artist David McDonald reproduced Rockwell’s Four
Freedoms paintings as four large murals on the side of an old grocery building
in downtown Silverton, Oregon. In 2008, Florida International
University’s Wolfsonian museum hosted the Thoughts on Democracy exhibition
that displayed posters created by sixty leading contemporary artists and
designers, invited to create a new graphic design inspired by American
illustrator Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters.
=Fictional entities=The Marvel Comics superhero team the
Fantastic Four was based in the Four Freedoms Plaza building from 1986, to
1998, when it was destroyed by the Masters of Evil.
=Games=The Splinter Cell franchise makes
numerous references to the Four Freedoms. In the opening sequence of the
first game, the Four Freedoms are displayed in text version as a splash
screen at the opening of the game, with a fifth freedom added: The freedom to
protect the other four—by any means necessary. It is this so-called “fifth
freedom” that the game’s protagonist operates under, and the theme is
continued in subsequent entries in the series.
=Literature=John Crowley’s novel Four Freedoms is
largely based on the themes of Roosevelt’s speech.
=Monument=FDR commissioned sculptor Walter Russell
to design a monument to be dedicated to the first hero of the war. The Four
Freedoms Monument was created in 1941 and dedicated at Madison Square Garden,
in New York City, in 1943.=Postage stamps=
Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings were reproduced as postage stamps by the
United States Post Office in 1941, in 1943, in 1946, and in 1994.
See also Freedom From Fear: The American People
in Depression and War, 1929–1945, a Pulitzer-winning history of the era.
Four Freedoms Second Bill of Rights, proposed by FDR
in his 1944 State of the Union Address Liberalism in the United States
World War II Victory Medal, which includes the Four Freedoms on its
reverse. The Free Software Definition is often
called “the four freedoms” within the free software community in reference to
the speech and fundamental principles. Notes
External links “Four Freedoms” Lesson plan for grades
9–12 from National Endowment for the Humanities
Text and audio. “FDR4Freedoms Digital Resource” The
digital education resource of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
“Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park”

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