At a time when Europe lay under the dark shadow of Nazi rule, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of The union address in 1941 in which he outlined his vision of a global expansion of the American ideas of individual liberties embodied in his four freedoms. ” In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,” :freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. It was an attempt to balance the necessity of war with the aims of the conflict, appealing to American notions of freedom.
After initial rejection of official recognition by the US government, Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of these four freedoms soon won public approval after being widely circulated by a popular magazine at the time and soon served as the center piece of the massive US war bond drive and to help explain and justify the wars ultimate aims.
In 1929 the US experienced its greatest economic and social crisis in the stock market collapse of 1929 which left 25% of the American workforce unemployed by 1932. Under F.D.R’s presidency from 1932 on wards, he garnered partisan support for federal intervention to reconstruct the economy and provide social security. The federal government assumed responsibility for guaranteeing Americans a living wage and protection against economic and personal misfortune. With so many in poverty and workers using phrases such as ‘economic freedom’ and ‘liberation from slavery and dictatorship’, it was no small task.
FDR juxtaposed his own definition of “liberty” as “greater security for the average man” to the older notion of freedom of contract which only served the interests of a “privileged few. (FDR- Eric Foner) He links freedom with economic security and economic inequality as the greatest enemy believing that democracy will only be safe when the citizens are able to sustain an acceptable standard of living.
In his 2nd ‘New Deal’ he expanded the meaning of freedom by extending the assistance to broad groups of needy Americans as a universal right of citizenship, not charity or special privilege. “The heart and soul of our country, was the heart and soul of the common man.” (FDR- Eric Foner)