Freedom from Want   1 comment

I’ve seen two parodies of this illustration this week; I thought you might enjoy hearing the story of how the original came to be.  This is from the National Archives.

It started with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Message to Congress on January 6, 1941, in what became known as the “Four Freedoms” speech :

“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is the freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is the 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.”

In 1941, basic human freedoms were under world-wide attack. Europe was under Nazi domination.  Japan was expanding its war from China to an advance into Indochina and the Dutch East Indies. Roosevelt anticipated the necessity of war, and sought to inspire the American people with a vision of the world accepting the American ideals of individual liberties.

Norman Rockwell was so inspired by this speech that he created a set of paintings on the “Four Freedoms” theme.  He translated Roosevelt’s vision of freedom into scenes of everyday American life.  He offered these painting to the US government for its use, but that offer was initially rebuffed.  The Saturday Evening Post, one of the nation’s most popular magazines of the time, purchased the rights to the paintings and published them.  They proved wildly popular, and eventually served as the centerpiece of a massive US war bond drive that helped explain the goals of the war.

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  1. Pingback: Portraits: Franklin D Roosevelt |

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