On 13 May 2013, Australian Consul-General Phil Scanlan AM led an official visit to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. During the visit to the memorial on Roosevelt Island, Consul-General Scanlan recalled the connections forged between the United States and Australia by President Roosevelt.
On 22 February 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur to leave the Philippines as the American defence of the islands collapsed, and to head to Australia where he would take control of additional American troops. General MacArthur arrived in northern Australia on 17 March 1942, and headed south down to Melbourne, where he discovered that there were far fewer troops than initially thought. In a press statement General MacArthur told his men and the people of the Philippines “I shall return,” a catchphrase that became synonymous with General MacArthur’s leadership.
In addition, Australia was visited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II, who made an official visit to the United States Embassy in Canberra, Australia’s capital city.
These visits built on ties forged by President Theodore Roosevelt, who sent the United States naval battle fleet, known as the ‘Great White Fleet’ to Australia in 1908. This visit was commemorated with the return of a US warship, the USS John McCain, to Sydney in 2008, as well as two Australian ships, the HMAS Sydney and HMAS Ballarat, to New York in 2009.
These events contributed to forging the strong social, economic and political ties that the United States and Australia share today.
To Ambassador William vanden Heuval, Chairman of the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, on 14 May 2013 Consul-General Phil Scanlan wrote:
In his message of condolence to Eleanor Roosevelt following President Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, Australia’s wartime Prime Minister John Curtin spoke for all of his fellow Australians, saying that he hoped Mrs. Roosevelt would "draw some comfort from the fact that your husband died in the care of all humanity, and in a duty from which he never swerved."
Australia’s destiny in the twenty-first century is to become a prototypical Eurasian nation, where the diversity of our people is celebrated as a national asset, as is our vibrant democracy underwritten by the rule of law.
Australia today embodies the enshrinement of the Four Freedoms into the Charter of United Nations. Your vision of the umbilical connection between Roosevelt Island Four Freedoms Park and the United Nations on the East River, is one we fully share.
You and your many colleagues deserve enormous credit for your patience, persistence and perseverance in seeing through the establishment of Four Freedoms Park with such devotion. I know you have more plans to appropriately develop the site in the cause of education and advancing human freedom.
It is our intention to be regular visitors and supporters of what is, after all, an expression of human values as dear to Australians as to Americans.