FDR's Four Freedoms in a Divided America

Email a Friend
FDR signs a bill in Washington, D.C. in the East Hall of the White House
From and

This Thanksgiving, a mere two weeks after the 2016 election, America has never been more divided. As we gather around to give thanks with family and friends, The Takeaway is taking a look back into history.

Before the start of World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out his vision for what that world should look like in his famous "Four Freedoms" speech, which he delivered in January 1941. 

“In the future days that we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded on four essential human freedoms," Roosevelt proclaimed. Those freedoms were: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

On Thanksgiving Day, The Takeaway examines the state of those four freedoms in 2016. Here's what you'll find in this special episode:

  • After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese-Americans were rounded up and held in internment camps. Setsuko Winchester, a Japanese-American ceramicist and former NPR journalist, has been visiting sights of Japanese internment for an ongoing project titled: "Freedom From Fear." She discusses her work and freedom from fear today on The Takeaway.

  • How has freedom of speech evolved since 1941? Steven Thrasher, writer-at-large and senior columnist for The Guardian U.S., and a doctoral fellow in American studies at New York University, discusses free speech in context of our changing technological landscape, through the lens of the 2016 election, and through the arch of global events. 
  • In America today almost 47 million people live in poverty — about 14.9 percent of the country. President Roosevelt tackled the problem head-on by introducing Social Security and Medicare. Father Timothy Graff, director of the Office of Human Concerns for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, explains how he understands the "freedom from want," and how it has changed since the 1940s.
  • Roosevelt could not have possibly known of the the modern problems associated with freedom when he slowly and deliberately dictated his now famous speech. And yet, his bold vision for "the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way" is a message that resonates deeply with Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Dawud Agbere, a Ghanaian immigrant and Muslim Chaplain in the  U.S. Army. He looks at the American ideal of freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, today on The Takeaway.