In January 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been re-elected for a third term. After nearly 10 years of double-digit unemployment and economic stagnation, the Great Depression was abating. War had engulfed Europe, and before year’s end the United States would be drawn into the worldwide conflagration at Pearl Harbor.
In his annual State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941, Roosevelt found it “unhappily, necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.” He articulated the case for supporting our future allies in their defiance of dictators, while he simultaneously prepared the nation to fight.
What would we fight for? “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,” FDR said. They are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
In 1943 Norman Rockwell produced a series of four paintings on these Four Freedoms. One of these painting, Freedom From Want, has come to exemplify the old American traditional Thanksgiving, and is most often referred to as the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.
Of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, Freedom from Want is the most seen pieces of art—often featured in art books and has become a nostalgic symbol of the American Thanksgiving holiday. The painting depicts an elderly couple serving a Thanksgiving turkey to a happy and eagerly awaiting family. The iconic Freedom from Want painting promotes the importance of family togetherness and traditional values.
The unity portrayed in Freedom from Want is what makes the painting a classic image for the Thanksgiving holiday, and despite efforts to recreate the image and the message the painting displays, no other artist has accomplished what Rockwell accomplished with Freedom from Want.
Wherever this Thanksgiving Day finds you and your version of Rockwell’s Thanksgiving dinner, remember that “freedom from want” eludes a growing number of people in our community today. Give a little of yourselves; there are collection barrels being distributed throughout your City to collect non-perishable food items and toys from various organizations in your community, or volunteer, these same organizations are always looking for help during the holiday season. Finally, take time and reflect how you have been blessed. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!