Freedom x 4
January 6, 1941: A State of the Union Address is given by Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had done this many times before as he was President of the US from 1933 to 1945. Each year, the President speaks to a joint session of Congress and gives his assessment of the state of the country and his upcoming legislative agenda. This year, FDR was more global in his approach. He talked about the freedoms that should be available “everywhere in the world” rather than just on home soil. The country was not yet embroiled in World War II but the world was. After ending the First World War, the US adopted an isolationist philosophy of non-intervention. Although US help was needed to end The Great War, it was hoped that peace would be more long-lived and the country could go about the business of business without war.
However, World War II was begun and Hitler’s forces were taking over Europe. In the East, Japan’s conquests were growing as well. People were being subjugated to rule not of their choosing. FDR still hoped to keep the US neutral, but he was forced to admit that the freedoms of the world were in peril. The Neutrality Acts of 1935 not only kept Americans out of war, but stated that armaments could not be sold to countries who were currently at war. After 1939, with Hitler’s forces in Poland, the US strongly supported the Allies, but the law was in force and the isolationist cause was supported in Congress. When France fell in June 1940, Britain stood alone against Germany, Italy, and Japan. Winston Churchill begged Roosevelt to supply armaments.
FDR felt the world needed to be free to practice four fundamental freedoms: 1. Freedom of speech; 2. Freedom of worship; 3. Freedom from want; and 4. Freedom from fear. Freedom of speech isn’t just the right to say what is on one’s mind, but also the right to collect and find information as it becomes available. Freedom of worship is the right to practice, or not practice, a religion regardless of the prevailing culture’s belief system. Freedom from want means that all people should be granted the opportunity to gain a standard of living that is compatible with health and growth. Freedom from fear means that one should be able to live in peace without prejudice, allowed to choose a path and not have governmental forces dictate what those should be at the risk of imprisonment or death.
Congress was not particularly pleased at the time of the speech with the President’s ideas. They were comfortable with their isolationist policies and fearful of American involvement in yet another war. Some claimed that the Four Freedoms Speech was just more rhetoric to support Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Some claimed this speech was just FDR war mongering. The US stayed out of war until December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. This was the precipitating factor for entering the global war. However, the spread of freedoms to those without such protection was never far from the mind of many Americans.
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. – all from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech
Also on this day: Can You Hear Me Now? – In 1838, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail got their new telegraph system working.
National Cathedral – In 1893, the charter for the Washington National Cathedral was signed.
Speed Typing – In 1714, a patent was granted for an early typewriter.
Montessori Schools – In 1907, Marie Montessori opened her first school.