On Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the 77th Congress in what he called an “unprecedented” moment in U.S. history. In his State of the Union address, Roosevelt set out to prepare America for the inevitable: war.
Roosevelt’s challenge was monumental: He rallied Americans to eschew isolationism and rise to protect republics around the globe in order to preserve America itself. And he did so by setting forth the Four Freedoms, which resonated in the hearts of every American then — and still do today:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,” Roosevelt declared.
“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.”
In 1943, Norman Rockwell illustrated the Four Freedoms as covers for the Saturday Evening Post, images that would later be used to raise $132 million in war bonds and embody each freedom in the mind of every American.
Locally, the UpCountry of Southern Vermont and the Berkshires is inextricably linked to Rockwell and the Four Freedoms: Rockwell used his Arlington neighbors as models in the paintings. In “Freedom from Fear,” it’s worth pointing out, the father is holding our Bennington Banner newspaper. The Four Freedoms themselves hang at the Norman Rockwell Museum in the Berkshires.
On the 75th anniversary of the paintings, this edition of UpCountry proudly explores Rockwell and the Four Freedoms. To that end, I highly recommend reading the centerpiece feature of this issue: “Finding common ground: The making of community,” an essay by Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum. A foremost expert on Rockwell, Norton Moffatt writes that the Four Freedoms “awakened in Rockwell a desire to use his artist voice to seek justice for all people.” We here at UpCountry are grateful for her contribution to this magazine.
Indeed, the Four Freedoms resonate today.
Kevin Moran, Editor