The most iconic American image of Thanksgiving is Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom from Want’, which is the likely reason many of us are reminded of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, which prompted Rockwell to memorialize them in paint for posters and Life magazine. It was, of course, his January 6, 1941 State of the Union address in which he outlined his plans for lend-lease to aid the British against Nazi aggression.
It was a speech designed to trumpet putative American democratic values abroad, and it worked with Congress: not long after the speech, they passed and funded the program; you know the rest about the US swinging into full-scale production of planes and tanks and other weapons.
But in the speech, he spoke of the core values of democracy that are either missing entirely or have been so tarnished that when we speak of them, they sound revolutionary.
“Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking about the social and economic problems which are the root cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme factor in the world. 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.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the 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.”
On this Thanksgiving day, as high as one in four Americans are without jobs, and millions more of us are sliding into poverty. Congress is intent on destroying our social safety programs. The agencies that were originally designed to keep us secure are now being turned against us as we make a now-or-never effort at restoring our democracy and adherence to our Constitution and the Rule of Law. Read the rest of this entry →