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On this day in history, January 6, 1941, FDR delivers Four Freedoms speech, steeling Americans for WWII

On this day in history, in his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a dramatic call to the American people to protect and defend four universal ideals of humanity: went.

This speech came amidst a terrifying and seemingly unstoppable march of military tyranny around the world.

FDR's remarks on that day, now known as the “Four Freedoms” speech, served as a spiritual call to arms for the American people, who would plunge violently into World War II before the end of the year.

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President Roosevelt cited freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear as the war consumed much of the rest of the planet.


President Franklin Delano delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 6, 1941. This is remembered as his “Four Freedoms” speech. (Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG, Getty Images)

In his eighth State of the Union address, President Roosevelt told the House and Senate that “the armed defense of the existence of democracy is now being waged bravely on four continents.''

“If that defense fails, the entire population and resources of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia will fall under the control of the conqueror.”

Nazi Germany had conquered most of Europe and North Africa by early 1941.

They were crushing London and other major British cities with daily air raids, and were pushing deeper into the Soviet Union.

FDR's “Four Freedoms” speech served as a spiritual call to arms for the American people.

By early 1941, the Empire of Japan had occupied or conquered much of the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and mainland China, committing horrific atrocities in the process.

By the end of the year, Japan will launch major multi-pronged attacks across Asia and the Pacific, including the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.

FDR's speech delves into the core values ​​of the Declaration of Independence.

Nazis conquer Paris

July 1940: German artillery, which had captured the city of Paris, marched down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

By appealing to the nation's most cherished values, the president was trying to prepare Americans for inevitable participation in world conflict.

The speech included a more pragmatic appeal to Congressional leaders and the public to strengthen wartime industry in preparation for the coming conflict.

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President Roosevelt said the Four Freedoms were “not a vision of some distant millennium. They are the clear foundations of the kind of world that is achievable in our time and generation. It is the very antithesis of.” This is the tyranny that the dictator is trying to create by dropping bombs. ”

Roosevelt's speech inspired a series of “Four Freedoms” paintings by artist Norman Rockwell, which he created in 1942 after America entered the war.

Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Speech

“Defend Free Speech, Buy War Bonds'' poster by Norman Rockwell. (Corbis, via Getty Images)

His rich portrait of humanity powerfully captures the values ​​that propelled the United States into World War II. Rockwell's paintings are still commonly seen on social media today, often serving as memes or to illustrate political causes.

One popular image, “Free Speech,” depicts a man in work clothes dutifully leaving his seat to be heard at a town meeting. Another, “Freedom from Want,'' depicts a family happily awaiting a lavish holiday dinner.

President Roosevelt cited freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear as universal human ideals.

Rockwell was already engaged in painting for the war effort on behalf of the U.S. government, but “he wanted to do more,” the Normal Rockwell Museum writes.

He “determined to paint Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.'' As he was contemplating this, Rockwell happened to attend a town meeting, where he stood up among his neighbors and became unpopular. “That night, Rockwell woke up and realized that he could paint a picture of freedom.” Using simple scenes from everyday life, such as his own town meeting, Rockwell Best from the perspective of one's own homeland experience. ”

Roosevelt Island FDR Monument

Franklin D. Roosevelt for Freedom's Park on Roosevelt Island, New York. The park is the first monument dedicated to a former president in his home state of New York. Located on the southern tip of New York City's Roosevelt Island, this building is the final work of the late iconic 20th century architect Louis I. Kahn. This park celebrates his four freedoms. (James Raines/Corbis via Getty Images)

The painting was published in the Saturday Evening Post in February 1943.

These quickly became iconic images for millions of Americans, capturing the purpose of the war in a few raw images.

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The Norman Rockwell Museum said, “The painting was a phenomenal success.”

“After publication, the Post received 25,000 reprint requests.”

These paintings quickly became iconic images, providing one of the few rawest images of the purpose of the war for millions of Americans.

The government initially rejected his offer to use them for the war effort. However, overwhelming popularity caused a sudden change of heart.

Federal authorities adopted the illustration as part of a national effort to sell war bonds and stamps to fund the March to Victory.

“Dozens of books and films, the establishment of our own park, a series of paintings by world-renowned artists, prestigious international awards, and a speech that inspired a United Nations human rights resolution are unique in American history. There is only one,” Paul M. Sparrow wrote on behalf of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.


“The words of the speech are enshrined in marble in Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, New York, are visualized in paintings by Norman Rockwell, inspired the international Four Freedoms Award, and are the inspiration for the United Nations It is the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Following the victory of the United States and its allies in World War II, former military powers Germany, Japan, and many other countries around the world adopted constitutional republics.

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives, millions of people for the first time were able to enjoy the freedoms President Roosevelt announced on January 6, 1941.

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