Fifth Graders from Brooklyn's P.S. 10 Define the Four Freedoms

By Stephen Martin, Director of Design and Planning

Photo by Elizabeth Markin

Photo by Elizabeth Markin

Photo by Elizabeth Markin

Photo by Elizabeth Markin

Before Four Freedoms Park opened to the public, the Conservancy established a wonderful partnership with P.S. 10 in Brooklyn, New York. P.S. 10 is an elementary school full of diverse students and teachers. Every year since 2012, fifth grade teacher, Jane Cyphers, teaches her students a unit on Franklin Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms. The lesson culminates with the students typing their first long-form essay and with a class field trip to the Park. This year, the students defined, through their own experiences, one or all of the four freedoms.

As this week marks the 75th Anniversary of the Four Freedoms speech, we wanted to share excerpts of their essays with you. The students define these freedoms in relevant and important ways. Through their thoughtful, fun, and encouraging responses, one can certainly envision the rise of these universal freedoms all across the world.


FDR thought that everybody’s voice should be heard. Free expression is not allowed in some countries, such as in Pakistan and Syria. For example, in Pakistan education for girls is not allowed. A girl named Malala stepped up and spoke about it…. Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize and is raising money for female education. That shows how important freedom of expression is.
— Emmet, Fifth Grader, excerpt
The freedom of speech is one of the [most] important freedoms of all. In 1982, a Supreme Court ruling said “Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.” I agree with this quote because children should be able to read many books with different ideas in them.
— Liberty, Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom of speech is the first and most important amendment, but some people didn’t always get that freedom. One of those people was Martin Luther King Jr. He stood among people and protested about how [he] and his race weren’t getting treated fairly. He and many others were beaten and arrested for it. Do you think that was right? What if you were just standing up for what you believed and got harshly rejected…. It seems awful living in a place where your voice is not heard.
— Pablo, Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom of speech is a freedom that lets people say their opinions and participate in debates. Not all people in the world have freedom of speech…. Freedom of speech is to inspire opinions and debates…. Banning books is against freedom of speech…. Banning books is against freedom of speech because people or kids don’t get to hear what the author has to say.
— Zoe Y., Fifth Grader, excerpt

Freedoms of Worship

Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the Four Freedoms speech on January 6, 1941. He said everyone should have these freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.

FDR also said that people should be free to worship whatever they want. People should not get bullied or judged because of their religion. When someone gets bullied because of their religion it is called discrimination. There are many different ways that people worship and being free to worship your religion makes sure that the government doesn’t say that there is only one way to believe in god…. In conclusion, these four freedoms are the guidelines for a perfect society that is democratic and free and treats people equal.
— Zoe R., Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom of religion is very important. People deserve to decide their religion, or decide not to have one at all. Say I don’t have a religion. I’m happy just the way I am. Then the government tells me I have to have a religion, then I can’t speak out, and I have no choice but to follow the religion I have been given. That is unfair. That is why freedom of worship is important, because people deserve to decide how to spend their time. People have been fighting for religion and over religion for thousands of years and I believe this is unfair because everyone should have the freedom to choose their own religion and how they worship their God/Gods.
— Hannah, Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom to worship means that you are allowed to worship whoever you want and nobody can tell you who to praise…. I’m so glad that our government is not in control of who you can worship. If they could, I would be miserable. Did you know that some people judge people about who they praise? They do terrible things to them like destroy their businesses and homes. Sometimes they might even kill them. That is the worst thing on earth that anyone could possibly do.
— Toni, Fifth Grader, excerpt

Freedom from Want

Freedom from want means that people should not need to want the simple necessities of life such as food and water, shelter, and healthcare. The government should be able to provide them with what they need whether they can pay for it or not. The government is like mom and dad of the USA. They should treat everyone, money or no money, equally. Everyone should be provided with food around the world as well.

When FDR gave the Four Freedoms speech he didn’t just mean it for our country, he meant it for the whole world. Every year, over twenty three thousand doctors provide medical care and supplies to millions of people in sixty-five countries. Doctors Without Borders is an excellent organization that I look up to. It is the organization that goes around the world to provide healthcare and clean water to poor countries. There are countries around the world that do not have freedom from want.
— Sasha, Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom from want means you should not be in a situation where you have to worry about having enough food, clothing, or money for shelter. Freedom from want became a symbol of family togetherness, peace and plenty. Some people did not have freedom from want. A lot of them had to worry if they had enough money for clothes, a house, food and lots more. I would not want to worry about any of those things.
— Miah, Fifth Grader, excerpt
The freedom from want means that everyone should have a decent life which includes food, education, clothes, and shelter because if they did not it would be very hard for them to survive. The problem is that not everyone has the freedom from want. Not everyone has a house, clean water, or healthy food. One million people live where water is scarce.

We have made a lot of progress since 1941 when President Roosevelt delivered his Four Freedoms speech. A lot of organizations are helping provide people with food and clothes. I would like to volunteer at these organizations to help people, since unfortunately not everyone has the freedom of want.
— Oliver, Fifth Grader, excerpt
The things that cause the freedom from want to take effect are hunger, water issues, natural disasters, no housing, war, unemployment, and poverty. In Japan a tsunami struck a dangerous nuclear power plant. In Rwanda the water is very dirty and people have to walk miles just to get some. The UN sent people over to Japan to help them rebuild. The UN comes in to help by giving food to all those who are starving. They give you clean water if yours is dirty. If you are unemployed or live in poverty and you need a job they give you a temporary one. If you got hit by a natural disaster, they send you help. Let’s give the UN a round of applause.
— John, Fifth Grader, excerpt


The great depression: People losing jobs, losing money, losing homes. Then Franklin Roosevelt put his foot down. He would not let us go on like this! Soon enough we were back on our feet.

FDR was creating jobs everywhere! There were schools being built, and soon enough teachers were being hired. He was doing something great! By creating buildings, he was not only getting people jobs as construction workers, but once these buildings were done he hired people to work there; it was the perfect plan!
— Clementine, Fifth Grader, excerpt
Freedom from fear means that no one should live with the fear of being hurt or killed by another person. That means anywhere in the world as well. One nation should not harm others in another country…. These four freedoms are basic human rights that we all should be able to live by.
— Lia, Fifth Grader, excerpt