Four Freedoms Speech, 1941

On this day in 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his 1941 State of the Union address, which became known as his Four Freedoms speech.

At the beginning of World War II, many Americans were still isolationist, meaning they did not want to get involved in the war brewing in Europe. The Four Freedoms speech is significant because FDR made a departure from traditional American isolationism and tried to convince his country that America should continue to give aid to Britain, which was in the midst of war with Nazi Germany. His argument was that people all around the world deserve four basic freedoms.

Here are the Four Freedoms, as illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

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.

Eleven months later, Japan bombed US Naval Base Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war on Japan, thus entering World War II. The Four Freedoms and their respective paintings became part of a war bond campaign (shown above) as they outlined the ideological aims of the United States.

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