It was a last minute decision by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to include the “Four Freedoms” in his State of the Union address on January 6, 1941.
World War II was raging in Europe and Asia. The United States had not entered the war yet, but Roosevelt in his speech could envision what peace should look like. That would come with the Four Freedoms for all: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Roosevelt saved the best for last in his speech writing process with his advisors. According to the FDR library “The famous Four Freedoms paragraphs did not appear in the speech until the fourth draft.”
And the Four Freedoms have been with us ever since, as a guide for human rights and peace. As we begin a new year, Roosevelt’s “freedom from want” is tragically lacking in many areas because of hunger.
The U.S. Famine Warning System has sent out an alert. “Across 46 countries, 83 million people require emergency food assistance in 2019, 75% more than in 2015.”
Yemen, which is torn by a civil war, has 20 million people desperately in need of food aid. South Sudan, the Sahel region of Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and so many other nations are struggling with food shortages.
There are malnourished children who are fighting for their lives as we speak. All they want is food and a chance at life. They want to grow, go to school and have normal lives. But instead they are trapped in the terror of hunger.
With such hunger and want around the globe, it’s impossible to build peace and stability.
One way Roosevelt rallied America to help those in need was the National War Fund. Citizens could donate to the fund, which was disbursed among a number of charities aiding American soldiers and war victims overseas. The donations helped malnourished school children in Nazi-occupied Norway get milk, Catholic Relief Services to provide aid to refugees and so many other humanitarian causes.
FDR said “the unfortunate, hungry men and women and children of all the overrun and enslaved countries see in your personal and friendly concern the brightest ray of hope and the greatest power for good in the world today — the sovereign voice of the people of the United States.”
America’s goodwill and humanitarianism helped to win the war and the peace. We must not forget that lesson today, because there are millions of people right now who are depending on America.
The nations of the world need the Four Freedoms and especially freedom from want as they cope with hunger emergencies.
Our government and citizens can do more to help. We can make food a top priority by expanding our international aid programs. We can support agencies like the World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, UNICEF, Mercy Corps and others who feed the hungry.
Every person in the world should be free from want, free from hunger. If we use the Third Freedom as our guiding light, we’ll find a peaceful world and end the darkness of hunger.