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The History Behind Norman Rockwell and the Four Freedoms

On January 6th, 1941, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed his State of the Union Address to Congress, he described his vision for a better way of life through what he considered the four essential human freedoms: Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want and Freedom of Speech.

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.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite
basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and
generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of
the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators
seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress,
January 6, 1941

Almost two years later, with the United States in the throes of World War II, Norman Rockwell painted a series of paintings called the Four Freedoms in an effort to reinforce their importance, while at the same time, simplifying their complexity.  After four months, when he was finished, the United States government used them quite successfully to enhance family values, unity, and patriotism, at a time when it was most needed. 


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