This edition: Fighting for the Four FreedomsTweet
First aired: April 21, 2014.
In January 1941, less than a year before Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union address made it clear that a fight was inevitable, a fight to preserve, protect and defend four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear.
This week on Moyers & Company, historian Harvey J. Kaye, author of the new book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, talks with Bill Moyers about FDR’s speech and how it was the cornerstone for the kind of progressive society Roosevelt hoped for but did not live to see at war’s end.
Today, the Four Freedoms have been diminished and defiled by a society that gives money and power the strongest voice. Kaye says, “Look what we’ve done and look what we’re allowing to happen now. This cannot be the America that I imagined and most of my fellow Americans imagined.”
But, he continues, Americans “Have not forgotten the Four Freedoms as ideals. They have forgotten what it takes to realize them, that we must defend, sustain and secure democracy by enhancing it. That’s what Roosevelt knew. That’s what Jefferson knew. And no one seems to remember that today. That’s what we have to remind people of.
“We need to remember that we're the children and the grandchildren of the generation that beat the Great Depression and defeated fascism and imperialism in World War II and went on to create the strongest and most prosperous country in human history. And how did they do that? By making America freer, more equal and more democratic.”
Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and director of the school’s Center for History and Social Change.
The broadcast concludes with a Bill Moyers essay remembering his father’s reaction to FDR’s death, 69 years ago this week.