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Giving thanks for our freedoms
Giving thanks for our freedoms

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 22, 2009) — One of the most famous images of the 20th century was created by artist Norman Rockwell during World War II. The illustration, captioned “Freedom From Want,” shows a family gathered around a table preparing to carve the turkey and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together.

Rockwell’s work was one in a series inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, known as the Four Freedoms speech. Rockwell’s artworks illustrating the Four Freedoms became national icons. They appeared on four consecutive issues of the Saturday Evening Post, were reproduced as posters, and were used to promote war bond sales.

The Four Freedoms that Roosevelt outlined deserve to be remembered, particularly as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and think about all we have to be grateful for this year. In his address, Roosevelt declared that our nation looks forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. First, the freedom of speech and expression. Second, the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. Third, the freedom from want, meaning the preservation of economic conditions that allow citizens of every nation to enjoy healthy, peaceful lives. The fourth freedom, echoing his immortal first inaugural address, was freedom from fear.

Although Roosevelt gave this speech before the U.S. entry into World War II, he knew that we might not be at peace much longer. The war in Europe and elsewhere threatened American security at home. Preparing the country for what was to come, the President used his address to remind the nation about the values we hold dear, values for which we fight. The values described in the Four Freedoms embody principles we are still willing to fight for today.

In the same year that Roosevelt named his Four Freedoms, he also signed a bill into law officially designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. As we gather with our families and friends this Thanksgiving holiday, let us take a moment to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and for the men and women in uniform who protect and defend those freedoms every day.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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