State of the Union Address: "Four Freedoms"1 Speech
by Franklin Delano Roosevelt
A speech delivered January 6, 1941.
Nearly a year before declaring war, FDR commits the United States to the World War II effort against totalitarianism and proclaims the fundamental rights of a free society.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the 77th Congress:
I address you, the Members of the Seventy-seventh Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union. I use the word “unprecedented” because at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.
Since the permanent formation of our Government under the Constitution in 1789, most of the periods of crisis in our history have related to our domestic affairs. And, fortunately, only one of these--the four-year war between the States--ever threatened our national unity. Today, thank God, one hundred and thirty million Americans, in forty-eight States, have forgotten points of the compass in our national unity.
It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often has been disturbed by events in other Continents. We have even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case had a serious threat been raised against our national safety or our continued independence.
What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times maintained clear, definite opposition, to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for ourselves or for any other part of the Americas.
That determination of ours, extending over all these years, was proved, for example, in the early days during the quarter century of wars following the French Revolution.
While the Napoleonic struggles did threaten interests of the United States because of the French foothold in the West Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the War of 1812 to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it is nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great Britain nor any other nation was aiming at domination of the whole world.
1 Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
PORTRAIT: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 11, 1941, signing Declaration of War against Germany. Library of Congress.
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. "State of the Union Address: 'Four Freedoms' Speech." Gleeditions, 17 Mar. 2011, www.gleeditions.com/stateoftheunionaddress/students/pages.asp?lid=415&pg=4. Originally published on FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Marist College, docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od4frees.html.