January 6, 1941 – FDR Announces the “Four Freedoms”

On this day in history, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his eloquent and forceful State of the Union address, insisted:

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.”

FDR delivering the Four Freedoms Address

FDR delivering the Four Freedoms Address

Of course, in spite of Roosevelt’s insistence in a 1942 radio address that the Four Freedoms embodied the “rights of men of every creed and every race, wherever they live,” he didn’t actually seem to mean American blacks or Americans of Asian descent.

The “Four Freedoms” were adopted by the UN in 1948 as part of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The Declaration was drafted by a committee chaired by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the dead president. While not legally binding, many countries have incorporated the provisions of these declarations into their laws and constitutions.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.

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