On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union address, in which he outlined his vision of the Four Freedoms. It was not an easy time in American history — the US had just emerged from the Great Depression and was increasingly threatened by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Listen to an excerpt from FDR’s speech below.
If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.
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.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception – the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
Hear FDR’s full State of the Union speech or read the text. Historian Harvey J. Kaye spoke with Bill about the relevance of the speech today and his new book: The Fight for the Four Freedoms. Read an excerpt from his book.