U.S. #908 – FDR personally selected this stamp design to show the world why the U.S. entered the war.

Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave his “Four Freedoms” speech while delivering the State of the Union Address.

By January 1941, World War II had wreaked havoc across the globe.  Germany invaded Poland, Belgium, and Holland.  Additionally, France had been defeated by a German blitz, leaving England the lone nation against Germany.  The Soviet Union invaded Finland, and Japan was ruthlessly battling China.

U.S. #1284 – There’s a Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island dedicated to the speech.

In America, President Franklin Roosevelt was just elected to an unprecedented third term. Across the nation, Americans did not want to get involved in the war, although the President earnestly tried to convince them that completely ignoring the war was dangerous to other nations as well as America.  He knew America would eventually be forced into the war and, more than anything, worried the nation would not be ready.

When President Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941, he stressed the serious nature of the situation and that “at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.”  He continued to explain that the U.S. must assist the Allied nations in defeating the Axis powers from taking over all of Europe.

Monaco #C16 pictures Roosevelt with his stamp collection.

President Roosevelt continued with perhaps one of his most famous speeches, saying, “In these future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”  Those freedoms are the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in one’s own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  He concluded his speech stating that, “Our strength is our unity of purpose.  To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”  Roosevelt’s speech resonated around the world, offering hope to civilians suffering under Nazi oppression.

U.S. #2840 – Norman Rockwell’s dramatic depictions of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.

The following year, Norman Rockwell began a series of four paintings that pictured ordinary Americans in scenes portraying the ideals for which the United States had gone to war. Called The Four Freedoms, the series consisted of Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want.

U.S. #1950 – Since 1982 the Roosevelt Institute has issued Four Freedoms Medals to people who further these ideals.

Unlike much of his other work, these paintings were not designed as illustrations, but as original works of art.  More than one million people saw the original paintings in the 16-city tour to promote the sale of war bonds.  The tour was so successful that it raised over $130 million for the cause.  Publishing the paintings as inside illustrations, The Saturday Evening Post generated an equally impressive response from its readers.  The government agencies that had turned the series down when Rockwell offered it to them soon realized their error – these powerful images struck a chord that reverberated around the country.

Click here to watch part of Roosevelt’s speech.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

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  1. Seeds planted today yield fruits tomorrow. Thoughts and actions of our leaders decide future lives of
    millions in our country as well as others. I pray for proper mind set for our leaders.

  2. It is nice to find out Franklin D. Roosevelt collected stamps. Curious to know what happen to hi s collection.

  3. I believe FDR was the greatest president because he saw that in a nation as large and diverse as ours the government has a role in seeing all citizens have a way of being secure in their lives, health, and well-being. Again in 2016 we are faced with politicians who think we don’t need the government to help secure our well-being. Maybe we have to learn that lesson again as we had to do from 1933 to 1945. Trump and the GOP are not the sole answer. The negativity there is not going to help.

  4. The Four Freedoms are depicted on a mural by Anton Refregier located in the lobby of the Rincon Center in San Francisco, California. This was originally the lobby of the Rincon Annex Post Office. The murals were started in the late 1930s and Refregier completed his Four Freedoms lobby panel after the war ended. The art deco lobby and murals have been restored and preserved and are well worth a visit if you are ever in San Francisco. In its day Rincon Annex was a great place to buy your postage stamps while reflecting on Refregier’s interpretation of California and American history.

  5. Thanks for this great reminder of what our country is really all about, Mystic. We need to get back to basics and away from all of the extreme right and left “terrorism,” that is besieging our Congress at this time in history. There is too much greed and indifference fogging up their sight. No one person or party can get things back to a centralized government that favors everyone, not just those who can pay for the most votes. FDR was far from perfect, but he was a visionary, and we need that kind of thinking in the country now, in this election year, if everyone is the be guaranteed, again and, forever, those 4 basic freedoms.

    FDR was a stamp collector and all, or most, of his collection was eventually sold at auction. It is interesting to note that the photo from which the Monaco stamp was designed, shows FDR committing a cardinal sin of stamp collecting: handling his stamp with his fingers and not his tongs. :-))))

  6. I was sure that FDR gave another speech in 1941 before 12/7, maybe summer or fall, in which his exact words were…… :”our boys will never fight on foreign soil” ……
    I haven’t been able to find it. Does anyone know which speech this was?

  7. I believe it was from one of his campaign speeches in 1940, where he tried to assure mothers and fathers by saying, “I have said it before, and I will say it again, and again, and again: Your boys will not be sent into any foreign war.” (Famous last words!)

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