On this day in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a foreign policy of neutrality. The president had watched with increasing anxiety as European nations struggled and fell to Hitler’s fascist regime and was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that the need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily–almost exclusively–to meeting the foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.
Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. After Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the four freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.
The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) on January 6, 1941. In an address known as the Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:
* Freedom of speech
* Freedom of worship
* Freedom from want
* Freedom from fear
Roosevelt delivered his speech 11 months before the United States declared war on Japan, December 8, 1941. The State of the Union speech before Congress was largely about the national security of the United States and the threat to other democracies from world war that was being waged across the continents in the eastern hemisphere. In the speech, he made a break with the tradition of United States non-interventionism that had long been held in the United States. He outlined the U.S. role in helping allies already engaged in warfare.
In that context, he summarized the values of democracy behind the bipartisan consensus on international involvement that existed at the time. A famous quote from the speech prefaces those values: “As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone.” In the second half of the speech, he lists the benefits of democracy, which includes economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of “adequate health care”. The first two freedoms, of speech and religion, are protected by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional Constitutional values protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right to economic security and anticipated what would become known decades later as the “human security” paradigm in social science and economic development. He also included the “freedom from fear” against national aggression before the idea of a United Nations for this protection was envisioned or discussed by world leaders and allied nations.
HT to ProPresidentObama