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President Roosevelt Defines Freedom at Home and Abroad

In his 1941 State of the Union address to Congress, excerpted below, President Franklin Roosevelt outlines his plan for how the United States will combat worldwide threats to democracy. Known as the "Four Freedoms" speech, this strong plea for national and personal sacrifice in the face of war defines several aspects of democracy that are "worth fighting for."

Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world. We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. This is our purpose and our pledge."...

We must all prepare to make the sacrifices that the emergency-almost as serious as war itself—demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and efficiency in defense preparations must give way to the national need....

As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things worth fighting for.....

For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all....

These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations....

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....

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 or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

Source | Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Annual Address to Congress," Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Our Documents: Four Freedoms, http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od4freed.html
Creator | Franklin D. Roosevelt
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Franklin D. Roosevelt, “President Roosevelt Defines Freedom at Home and Abroad,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 18, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1260.

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