by William vanden Heuvel
Today we remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech delivered on January 6, 1941. President Roosevelt appeared before Congress and described his vision for a world built on four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Below is an excerpt written by Ambassador vanden Heuvel from Normal Rockwell's 1993 book entitled Four Freedoms.
We look back in order to see where we are going. We need only remember the world to which Franklin Roosevelt spoke on January 6, 1941, to be reminded of the blessings of our lives today. The world then - beset by war, oppressed by Nazi domination, brutalized by racist thugs - was a world where every tenet of democracy was threatened and ridiculed. The Four Freedoms bring the past and present together. They are the freedoms for which we fought; they are the words inscribed in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; they are the fundamental values of the world we would leave to our children.
On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt came before the Congress and gave us a vision of the world that would be worthy of our civilization. He spoke - simply, eloquently - of a nation dedicated to the Four Freedoms - everywhere in the world:
Freedom of speech and expression, the best defense against the corruption of democracy;
Freedom of worship, our shield against the forces of bigotry, intolerance, and fanaticism;
Freedom from want, a commitment to erasing hunger, poverty, and pestilence from the earth;
Freedom from fear, a freedom dependent on collective security, a concept carried forward with our leadership in the United Nations.
The words and concepts of the Four Freedoms were distinctly personal to President Roosevelt. He wrote the phrases himself, he spoke them deliberately and simply to explain to the American people that their history of isolation was over, that the United States had no choice but to commit its enormous power to defeat the Fascist dictators. Franklin Roosevelt wanted not only his countrymen but every nation in the world to understand that the Four Freedoms justified the battle, made worthy the sacrifice, made essential the victory.