By David Woolner

Obama’s Second Term Could Mark the Return Of The Four Freedoms

November 22, 2012 10:45 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics 38 Comments A+ / A-
Obama’s Second Term Could Mark the Return Of The Four Freedoms

As part of our series “A Rooseveltian Second-Term Agenda,” a call to return to a foreign policy based on FDR’s vision of shared peace and prosperity.

Even though we come from different places, we share common dreams: to choose our leaders; to live together in peace; to get an education and make a good living; to love our families and our communities. That’s why freedom is not an abstract idea; freedom is the very thing that makes human progress possible—not just at the ballot box, but in our daily lives.

One of our greatest presidents in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, understood this truth. He defined America’s cause as more than the right to cast a ballot. He understood democracy was not just voting. He called upon the world to embrace four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These four freedoms reinforce one another, and you cannot fully realize one without realizing them all.—Barack H. Obama, University of Yangon, November 19, 2012

In his historic visit to Burma, also referred to as Myanmar, President Obama spoke at length about the journey Burma is taking from dictatorship to democracy, a transition he said has the potential to inspire people the world over as “a test of whether a country can transition to a better place.”

President Obama made it clear that his journey to Burma—the first by an American president—was inspired in part by his own desire to encourage the people and government of Burma to press ahead with their democratic reforms so that the “flickers of progress” that the world has seen will not be extinguished. The president’s visit was also notable for his repeated insistence that America was a “Pacific nation,” whose “future was bound to those nations and peoples to our West.” But perhaps the most significant aspect of his speech was his decision to frame his remarks around a concept first articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt at one of the darkest moments of the Second World War—the need to build a world founded on four fundamental human freedoms.

At a moment when Adolf Hitler had proclaimed the onset of “a new order” in Nazi-occupied Europe, and when Japanese militarists had seized much of China and were poised to expand their grip on Southeast Asia, Franklin Roosevelt proposed “a greater conception,” a “moral order” that represented the very antithesis of the “tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.” FDR’s order was based on the idea that all people—“everywhere in the world”—deserved the right to enjoy freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear.

He articulated this vision in part because of the critical need to gain the support of the American people and Congress for the passage of the Lend-Lease Bill that was pending on Capitol Hill. But the enunciation of the Four Freedoms and initiation of Lend-Lease—which would make it possible for the United States to provide arms and munitions to Great Britain free of charge—was also inspired by a much deeper conviction: that the security of the United States was tied directly to the health and well-being of other nations.

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Obama’s Second Term Could Mark the Return Of The Four Freedoms Reviewed by on . As part of our series "A Rooseveltian Second-Term Agenda," a call to return to a foreign policy based on FDR's vision of shared peace and prosperity. Even thoug As part of our series "A Rooseveltian Second-Term Agenda," a call to return to a foreign policy based on FDR's vision of shared peace and prosperity. Even thoug Rating:

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  • http://twitter.com/14hei William Heiland

    The force arms will never bring the four freedoms that Franklin Roosevelt aspired to. We must work to give all those we deal with the chance to achieve them. For when they reach them we as well as them will prosper.

  • nobsartist

    President Obama said that he wanted to be like FDR and wanted Americans to demand what they want. I want those 4 freedoms and I want laws passed that prevent the psychotics in the republiCON party, the Greedy Old Pricks, from ever being able to subvert them.

  • dtgraham

    I never realized just how great a President Roosevelt was until I came across his second bill of rights proposal from 1944 one day. Simply remarkable document given the state of political discourse these days. He was a social democrat in every way and someone after my own heart. That philosophy stresses an activist approach to government in which the instrumentality of government in the public interest is used to create a more equitable distribution of the goods of the world and a greater equality in the human condition. A government based on this philosophy can, in very practical ways, realize progressive reforms to bring about greater economic equality and social justice.

    There’s another thread here having to do with Walmart. Walmart operates successfully in other countries that have a much higher average minimum wage than the U.S., additional various government benefits funded partly from corporate earnings, and national health insurance for everyone, not based on your employment status or ability to pay. Yet, they stay there making an apparently acceptable profit and making the Waltons richer. They’re not going anywhere even though they’re forced into absorbing more costs in the form of taxes and wages and offloading fewer of those costs onto society via their employee’s Medicaid and food stamps. Furthermore, they continue to open more Walmarts in those countries.

    The wages and health care alone make a significant difference in people’s lives and show what’s achievable through progressivism, although more should certainly be done.

    I am a social democrat.

    • gazzzzzz

      You are also poet who delivers your thoughts in a truly eloquent and informative manner.

      • dtgraham

        I’m not much of a poet gazzzzzz, but thank you very much for those kind words.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

      American companies, such a WalMart, benefit from the availability of government provided healthcare in Europe and some Asian countries. One of the greatest burdens on our corporations in the USA is the cost of corporate funded healthcare benefits. That requirement often amounts to almost 20% of cost. That is the reason so many companies re hiring part timers and scheduling people to work less than 40 hours a week. Our insistence on keeping the for-profit insurance company option is an important reason for our inability to compete effectively and the reason so many Americans don’t have access to preventive medical care. We are, in effect, shooting ourselves in the foot.

      • dtgraham

        I know the costs to companies of providing good health care coverage in the U.S. are enormous and probably outweigh the extra wage costs and things like partly funding parental leave, etc.. elsewhere, but I kind of assumed that Walmart wasn’t providing good health care coverage to their staff in the U.S. I may be wrong about that but I’d be surprised if I was.

  • patuxant

    Uplifting thoughts to end a quiet Thanksgiving day–and the 49th anniversary of the passing of another inspirational President…

    • dtgraham

      “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”—John. F. Kennedy

      “The wealthy and powerful can afford to buy their own interests and representation in Washington.” “The job of representing the interests of the poor and less powerful is the job of the President of the United States.” “I intend to fulfill that job.”—John. F. Kennedy

      He was a great man patuxant.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

        Yes he was, and he paid a heavy price for his audacity…

        • dtgraham

          He sure did.

  • montanabill

    Freedom from Want? How can that be achieved? We are human beings and regardless of your station in life, you probably have ‘wants’. Can you still have freedom from ‘want’ if you make bad choices in life and expect someone else or government to bail you out? The implication of Roosevelt’s manifestation of that so-called freedom that it is the role of government to satisfy those ‘wants’. The only way that can happen is if government takes from someone else to try to satisfy your ‘wants’. A government that does that immediately violates Roosevelt’s last freedom: the freedom from fear.

    The role of government should simply be to try to provide a country where you are as free as possible to make your own choices concerning satisfying your ‘wants’ so long as your freedom doesn’t infringe on someone else’s right to their freedoms.

    Your freedom from fear should be the freedom not to fear the governments of other countries and, certainly, the freedom of fear from your own.

    • Lovefacts

      Freedom from want–IMO & given FDR’s frame of reference was the depression probably his–is ensuring people don’t go hungry or cold and have a roof over their heads. Freedom from fear is knowing you won’t go hungry, cold, or end up in a concentration camp because of your religious or policitical views.

      • montanabill

        I’m afraid no one can guarantee that you won’t be cold or hungry or have a roof over your head. What this country does try to guarantee you, is that you will have the freedom to pursue those goals and well as those items you listed under fear.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

      President Roosevelt’s “Freedom from Want” is, indeed, intriguing and can be interpreted many different ways, but I suspect reliance on government programs to subsist was not what he had in mind.
      Roosevelt believed WWII was caused by currency disorders, mass unemployment, and economic desperation. His conclusion was reinforced in one of his speeches when he stated “Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”
      He was also convinced that American democracy could not survive if a large segment of our population did not have adequate housing and the means to survive, including being able to feed themselves. During his Four Freedoms speech, which was reiterated a few months later during a meeting with Winston Churchill when they worked on the framework of what became known as the Atlantic Charter, he stated the United States should seek “economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peace time life for its inhabitants.” Towards that end he promoted an international monetary fund and a world bank, to foster high levels of employment, economic growth, trade and justice for all.
      Obviously, he was the architect of many social programs, some were required to get us out of the Great Depression, others are still in place. His focus was on economic growth and high levels of employment, rather than dependence on handouts. Roosevelt and Lincoln were our greatest Presidents, their deeds and vision should serve as a compass for others to emulate.

      • gazzzzzz

        I agree! Irresponsible currency manipulation put us in this mess. Mr Reagan was president of the screen actors guild for a number of years. He was fully aware of the need for collective bargaining to achieve fairness for employees. He benefited from the collective bargaining process. He abandoned that philosophy as president of the United States by becoming a union buster. Collective bargaining helped to build the middle class through negotiating higher wages and better benefits. The tax code under Mr Reagan was slanted heavily in favor of the rich. We are suffering a systematic dismantling of the middle class. We are becoming a nation of the very rich and various levels of poor. We need access to education, health care, decent housing and jobs that pay a living wage.

      • montanabill

        If Roosevelt really believed that WW II was caused by those attributes, then he was truly a fool. It may have been that Hitler rose to power because of mass unemployment and economic desperation, but it was the acquiesce of timid men who allowed him to become a dictator and then believe he could get away with the use of military power.
        Winston Churchill, who had previously been vilified for stating exact that, had a totally different view of what a subsequent peace time should be, hence his belief in a stable monetary system with a view to economic growth by the private industry, not by government programs.

        “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
        “Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.”
        “You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer”
        – Winston Churchill

        There is no evidence that any social program that Roosevelt sponsored, in any way, was working to get the American economy out of depression.

    • rgrein

      Interesting view, considering your cohort relies more on government aide than progressives. That ‘independent spirit’ is at odds with the pioneer reality – that individually people die; that peace, prosperity and long life are possible only in a society. We band together for mutual aide.
      People died in the depression as their resources ran out with no one to turn to. A country of immigrants, our family ties severed does not have relatives in a position to help. That the problem was made worse by the huge inequalities between the working poor and the robber barons. The great middle class YOU enjoy, sir is possible only through the efforts of progressives like President Roosevelt (both) and union efforts. Those efforts went mostly to providing care for those resources ran out, but also to ensuring conditions no longer guaranteed a routine economic crash that would kill by the thousand but benefit a few at the very top.
      You, sir, reflect the odd attitude in a ‘democratic’ country that the government is evil. Imperfect though the control may be, WE are the government, and we decided to not callously stand by while people starved.

      • montanabill

        “cohort”? I don’t believe anyone else was mentioned.

        Why is it that the liberal mind always translates ‘limited government’ into ‘do away with government’?

        FYI: some history for you to check out. There is no evidence that any social program promoted by Roosevelt did anything to raise the country out of depression. That was accomplished by selling war material to England and then subsequently, to ourselves.
        Henry Ford created the 40 hour week, the 8 hour day and a living wage. Unions did serve a purpose, for a time, promoting Henry Ford’s idea. But they never knew when to stop, because it wasn’t in the interest of union bosses.

        • dtgraham

          I guess those children that Ford employed got kind of tired working those long hours huh.

          Ford didn’t actually create the 8 hour day. It had been a long time in the making in the U.S. and throughout the world montana. Philadelphia carpenters went on strike in 1791 for the 10 hour day. By the 1830′s this was a general labour demand. Labour movement publications called for an 8 hour day as early as 1836. Boston ship carpenters achieved an 8 hour day in 1842.

          In 1864 the 8 hour day became a central demand of the Chicago labour movement and in 1868 Congress passed an 8 hour law for federal employees. This move toward the 8 hour day 40 hour week intensified through the rest of the 19th century and was always driven by the labour movement. I know Ford was interested in studies done showing increased worker productivity via a shorter day, but I’m sure he also saw the writing on the wall by then. I’ll give him credit for the increased wages but I don’t think he had Walmart’s assured smugness of being able to keep his workers from collectively organizing.

          BTW, I’ve always enjoyed the conservative’s Depression story. All the extra government spending on infrastructure and social welfare did nothing to help, but all the extra government spending on WWII military equipment did the trick. Ok.

          • montanabill

            Sometimes it helps if you have lived history. For several years prior to 1941, the U.S. became a major arms and material producer for Europe. That started the recovery as major U.S. manufacturers cranked up. When the U.S. got into the war, we bought bonds, recycled on scale never seen before or since, and rationed our way through. It was how the government got the money to finance the war.

          • dtgraham

            Lend Lease didn’t start until March of 1941, not “several years prior”. The U.S., British, and even Russian armed forces were unprepared for WWII and needed a build up. The French were focused on their Maginot line. The kind of arms and material production that you’re talking about didn’t occur in the 1930′s except in Germany. Even then the U.S. became a major creditor nation with much of British and Soviet arms and supplies being on loan, so a certain percentage of it amounted to little more than make work at the time.

            I’ve read conservative economists write about the rejection of New Deal continuation and embrace of modest tax reductions in 1946 as being the catalyst for the post war boom. I think that’s largely nonsense. Most of the industrial powers had their industrial capacity destroyed by the war and left the U.S. with a near monopoly on production of major items. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re the only game in town, no matter what you do. Even those economists give a little credit for the post war boom to the GI bill. It allowed military personnel to buy homes and go to college. It helped create an educated, skilled middle class and provided economic stimulus through the housing boom.

          • montanabill

            We didn’t just start selling at the start of Lend Lease. Initially constrained by the Neutrality Acts which limited arms sales to “cash and carry” purchases by belligerents, Roosevelt declared large amounts of US weapons and ammunition “surplus” and authorized their shipment to Britain in mid-1940.
            Your assessment of post-war is correct, with the proviso that it was American industry converting from war time production to meet a pent-up domestic production demand that created a need for educated, skilled people who became the middle class. They, in turn, continued to fuel the boom.

          • dtgraham

            Well said montana.

    • jstsyn

      The same right wing mantra worded a bit differently. Which was voted out. Taking from one to give to another was not what FDR meant regardless of how one twists it. Same ole song coming from the losers.

      • montanabill

        It is exactly what Roosevelt was doing. Do you not understand that government only gets money from two sources? 1) they print it, 2) they take it from their citizens.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/HGC4BGWVYXV76PHZBPSPOOU5GA Independent1

      From you comments Montanabill I’m starting to understand the misguided right-wing conservative mind…it lives in La La Land. Right-wing conservatives abviously think they live in a world where everything that supports them is free; no one apparently has to pay for the nations highways, or its military, or the all the other institutions that provide health, saftety and wellbeing to the country’s populace. I guess that’s why George Bush had no quams about reducing each year the Federal subsidies to the states for things like highway construction, medicaid support and a number of Fed mandated programs like the disasterous no-child-left-behind program which together with all his other cuts drove many states to the verge of bankruptcy. George, like you apparently, had the notion that all these things would just take care of themselves without anyone having to pitchin. What unadulterated poppycock. When are la la land people like yourself going to wake up and realize that it takes money to provide all these services and every industrialized non communist nation on the planet expects people to chip in THEIR FAIR SHARE, and which every country assumes those better off (the rich) are in a better position to chip in just a little more than everyone else. AND BY THE WAY, RIGHTLY SO, You say why? Because the rich as a norm abuse the planet more and use more polluting services than the non rich. Rich folks, a la Romney, have more houses, have more cars, have bigger houses, do more traveling, throw more parties, etc, etc, which use more energy, create more pollution, utilize more natural resources, and on and on. PLUS their money did not fall from the trees, nor materialize from thin air, it came from thousands and maybe millions of lesser peons buying their product or service…their money came from the little people. For all these considerations, despite your demented idea of la la land, you and all your dimwitted right-wing wacko conservatives do in fact OWE YOUR FAIR SHARE OF WHAT IT COSTS TO KEEP OUR COUNTRY OPERATING AT ITS BEST!!! WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!!!

      • montanabill

        As I have asked many times, why does the liberal mind translate ‘limited government’ into ‘no government’?
        Don’t give me this ‘fair share’ nonsense. If you had spent one minute actually learning about the economy and government, you would know that 10% of Americans pay 70% of the income taxes. You would also know that percentage is way more than actual percentage of money earned by them. ‘Fairness’ would dictate that their share of taxes equals their share of income. In really, it is you no paying a ‘fair share’.

        You don’t know squat about rich people.

    • gazzzzzz

      The freedom from want is a tangible need to insure fairness. We are on the verge of becoming a country ruled by the few. When Mr Reagan was president, income for the middle class went down dramatically. He initiated at the will of his controllers the trickle down economics policy. Intentionally working class salaries were slashed. Few jobs were created and the deficit swelled. The rich got richer and we got poorer through no fault of our own. We cannot buy favors or influence. The republican party is a tool of the greedy rich bent on controlling our lives. When Mr. G. W. Bush was president, he was a tool of these people. His policies allowed them to gain enormous new wealth and the middle class became poorer than it had been in decades, through no fault of our own. There is a rumor that Mr Romney has not paid taxes in ten years. You or I would be in jail. We have government because certain aspects of our lives need to be governed to insure some degree of fairness. The Clinton presidency provided prosperity for most, not just the privileged few. Mr Bush inherited a stable economy, social security surplus and a healthy middle class. The beauty of our constitution is in allowing our freedom to flourish only to the point that it infringes on the freedom of another. Our freedom of self determination has been systematically impinged by those who want every thing at any cost to others. The scope of government must go far beyond protecting our borders or defending us against attack from abroad. We must be defended from attack by fellow citizens whose only concerns are wealth and power.

      • montanabill

        ‘fairness’? Nothing on this earth has ever been, is currently or will ever be ‘fair’. Not with any aspect of any living thing, and we are no exception.

        Put your liberal fairy tales into a book and sell it as fiction.

        Our Constitution was devised with the hope that government would provide security and governance for the country while creating the freedom for each individual to pursue their dreams. It does not guarantee that you will live a happy life, a healthy life, a well fed life, have a roof over your head or own anything. It makes no provision for the taking of one man’s property to give to another man.

        Your ability to make choices is your defense against fellow citizens who covet wealth and power

        • gazzzzzz

          There is a hope and expectation of fairness in our form of government. Most of us operate within the framework of our federal, state and local statutes along with our own moral compass. There are however some who put themselves above the law and have no moral compass. If there is no fairness, let’s strive to attain it. I expect my government to treat us as individuals, not as the powerful and the powerless, while serving only the powerful. A government which serves only the powerful is broken. An attempt at fairness is at the core of our democracy.” One man one vote”. The words”Liberty and Justice for all” are hollow without the assumption and the determination to achieve fairness. Fairness is simply equal justice. You are right in a sense, life for most of us is not fair. Let’s make it better.

          • montanabill

            I have no quibble with anything you wrote. I simply cannot apply it to the current government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1425480465 Liz Feeser-Regan

    When you think about this last election, it is very scary to think about what we could have ended up with.

  • Eleanor

    Having been born in 1937, I remember the LONG recovery of the depression. I remember the WPA which provided jobs for many people in our area. Pay was poor, but then again everyone in our area was poor,poor,excepting a VERY FEW. We lived and worked alongside our parents in the gardens, tobacco fields. Surely did not hurt us, but instilled a great work ethic, also instilled the belief that it is our responsibility to provide for ourselves, and as a senior, I still believe in those teachings. I have always believed FDR was one of our great presidents. Yes, I draw S.S., and am on Medicare, but I worked to support myself and my family for 40 years and paid into these systems dearly for those 40+ years. Just hope we never lose the vision FDR had for this great country.

    • ralphkr

      Well, Eleanor, I am somewhat older than you but do not draw SS or Medicare. I paid into SS for years but I never paid into Medicare because I was forced to retire the year my job came under Medicare. I worked too many years at SS exempt jobs (LEO, military, Federal, under the table) to qualify but I don’t mind donating my money to help the SS fund and I will fight to retain SS as what it is: an annuity and not means tested (welfare) program. I have a private pension and insurance that is just as good as medicare (has always covered medicines with no “doughnut hole”) although with much more expensive premiums and I recognize that Medicare is the most efficiently run health insurance available just as SS is the most efficiently run pension plan in America with neither entity having a CEO making millions a year the way private plans do.

      I also remember my mother’s family, rock-solid Republicans (which I have become convinced is a good adjective to apply to the brain of Republicans), who bitterly complained about the evils being committed against the US by Democrats at the same time they were drawing money from CCC (you forgot to mention them),WPA, and other programs promulgated by the hated commies. Their town got a new post office, court house, City Hall, jail, 2 school buildings, and a new bridge to replace one that had been washed out and they were still bitterly complaining that it wasn’t enough (typical Republicans). When FDR died their town (along with a number of other towns) shut down to have a major celebration to celebrate their release from the tyrannical communist dictator. Oh, yeah, they were also more than happy to accept the food that an evil Democrat, my father (the only Democrat they had ever met), would bring into town from our farm for them.

  • jlelandthomas

    Why are the rich so set against a person wanting to be able to make an honest living with out his interference on taxes and such .We demand our freedom through Obama our elected leader since most of the Sen won’t speak for us .And a;so the Social Security needs a decent raise like the one’s you guy’s get remember .

  • Nick von Liphart

    I think the author reads too much intention in one speech delivered by the president, rather than focusing on what really indicates what his foreign policy will be in the coming term– his policy choices in the first term. He shifted the weight of deployments to afghanistan, but the overall deployment levels are still enormous. He’s expanded the drone strikes in scope and number. He’s accrued additional extra-constitutional powers to the executive, shredding our civil liberties in the process. One should conclude, based on this record of action rather than on one speech, that the President will give us another neo-conservative, imperialistic, bloody term.

  • mavp

    Let’s start by immediately stopping the Drone War, killing the Patriot Act, closing Guantanamo, and publicly stating that the US government has never had the authority to assassinate American citizens – with or without due process.

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