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The Four Freedoms

Over the next few days, we'll be hearing a number of renditions of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. In today's New York Times, William Safire provided an English 101-esque critique of the speech and how it is relevant to the present day. I agree with Safire; it is altogether fitting and proper that we should be recalling the Gettysburg Address this week. We should remember, too, of course, that there have been many other great Presidential speeches and some of these may also be fitting in our remembering this week.

The one that I am thinking of is President Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms Speech from January 1941. That January, the rest of the world was at war and the United States was soon to enter into the fray. The President spoke these words:

"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 or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

I feel these words are quite appropriate for our times, today.


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