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The Four Freedoms were goals articulated by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt 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:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional US Constitutional values protected by its First Amendment, and endorsed a right to economic security and an internationalist view of foreign policy that have come to be central tenets of modern American liberalism. They also anticipated what would become known decades later as the "human security" paradigm in social science and economic development.


The Declarations

The speech delivered by President Roosevelt incorporated the following

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 D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941
The four freedoms flag or "United Nations Honor Flag" ca. 1943-1948

United Nations

The concept of the Four Freedoms became part of the personal mission undertaken by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt regarding her inspiration behind the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, General Assembly Resolution 217A (1948). Indeed, these Four Freedoms were explicitly incorporated into the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads, "Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed the highest aspiration of the common people,...."


FDR called for "a world-wide reduction of armaments" as a goal for "the future days, which we seek to make secure" but one that was "attainable in our own time and generation." More immediately, though, he called for a massive build-up of U.S. arms production: "Every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being' directly assailed in every part of the world… The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily—almost exclusively—to meeting this foreign peril. … [T]he immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production. … I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war with aggressor nations. … Let us say to the democracies: '…We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. …'" - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Norman Rockwell's paintings

"Freedom of Speech"

President Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech inspired a set of four Four Freedoms paintings by Norman Rockwell. The four paintings were published in The Saturday Evening Post on February 20, February 27, March 6 and March 13 in 1943. The paintings were accompanied in the magazine by matching essays on the Four Freedoms. (See also, Freedom from Fear (painting)).

The United States Department of the Treasury toured Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings around the country after their publication in 1943. The Four Freedoms Tour raised over $130,000,000 in war bond sales.

Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings were also reproduced as postage stamps by the United States Post Office. Scott Catalog # 2840 souvenir sheet of four stamps.[1] Also, postage stamps of the Four Freedoms were issued in 1943 (Scott Catalog # 908)[2] and in 1946 (Scott Catalog # 933)[3]

The New Jersey muralist Michael Lenson (1903-1972) likewise responded to Roosevelt’s speech in a pictorial way, painting a mural titled “The Four Freedoms” for the Fourteenth Street School in Newark, New Jersey.


FDR commissioned sculptor Walter Russell to design a monument to be dedicated to the first hero of the war. The Four Freedoms Monument was created in 1941, and was dedicated at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1943.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was a park designed by the architect Louis Kahn for the south point of Roosevelt Island. The Park celebrates the famous speech and text from the speech is inscribed on a granite wall in the final design of the Park.


The Franklin D. Roosevelt Institute [1] honors outstanding individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to these ideals. The Four Freedoms Award medals are awarded at ceremonies at Hyde Park, New York and Middelburg, Netherlands during alternate years. Among the laureates have been:

Use in popular culture

  • John Crowley's 2009 novel The Four Freedoms is largely based around the themes of Roosevelt's speech.
  • In the game series Splinter Cell there are numerous references to the Four Freedoms, with the commanding officer of protagonist Sam Fisher, stating at one point, "this is four freedoms territory", indicating that the situation (in the game plot) has gotten so grave that one or more of the Four Freedoms are threatened. In the opening sequence of the first game, the Four Freedoms are displayed in text version as a splash screen at the opening of the game, with a fifth freedom added: The freedom to protect the other four—by any means necessary. It is this "fifth freedom" that the game's protagonist operates under.
  • Marvel Comics superhero team the Fantastic Four is based in the Four Freedoms Plaza building.
  • Florida International University's Wolfsonian museum hosted the Thoughts on Democracy exhibition that displayed posters created by sixty leading contemporary artists and designers, invited to create a new graphic design inspired by American illustrator Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters of 1943.


See also

External links

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