Pajamas Media: The Four Freedoms:

Thursday, November 23, 2006
Pajamas Media: The Four Freedoms:: "“Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions—without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

“This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”"

That was FDR, by the way, icon of liberal Democrats.


terrye said...

FDR also used suveillence and bugged long distance phone calls.

I suppose today that people would say folks were more idealistic back then. But I have my doubts about that. The world had seen WW1, the Great Depression and the Russian Revolution in a few short decades. Sounds like a pretty grim place to me, not one conducive to idealism at all.

Maybe they thought God was on their side.

loner said...

I've been trying to remember when this last came up because I think it came up once before since I've been reading blogs, but it might have been earlier. Regardless, context helps and context never seems to be provided.

Roosevelt included the Four Freedoms in his State of the Union speech of January 6, 1941. There are all sorts of other things included in that speech and, not surprisingly, he is working to win the hearts and minds of the American people to the support of one of the sides in a war that's broken out "over there." He and his Administration kept working throughout the year and 336 days later the Japanese provided a "date which will live in infamy" as a result of which that support was secured.

The Four Freedoms get trotted out from time to time by people who, I suppose, are trying still to win hearts and minds to one cause or another. The Day of Infamy and a shorter speech by the same man on the following day—well those made history.

Seneca the Younger said...

Loner, I'm not getting your point. Are you saying that this speech was just cynical propaganda and that FDR didn't believe it --- or that because 12/7 came, the speech was meaningless?

Personally I think that this sounds a lot like something George W would say.

Except he might stutter a bit.

loner said...


What does a politician believe? FDR was more a politician by far than anybody supposedly practicing that craft these days. He may have believed it. He probably did. His goal though was to get the American people to believe it so as to increase his ability to offer material support to the Allies and to prepare the United States to fight a major war.

A few months after my last meeting with John L. Lewis I found myself in Minneapolis in early winter, to speak on the world scene during the Sunday service at the city's largest Lutheran church. After my talk the elderly minister, who still had a Swedish inflection in his English, said: "We do live indeed in horrible times. But let us remember that the forebears of everyone in this congregation came to this country to get away from the incessant wars, the insane hatreds, and the sinful pride of Europe. Let us remember that the forebears of everyone here hacked a farm out of the howling wilderness amid blizzards in the winter and sandstorms in the summer, so as to live as free men and women, innocent of the wickedness and folly of national honor and the tyranny of government disguised as military glory. Let us remember that the forebears of every one of us came to build a new nation subservient to laws rather than to men. Let us pray that this cup will pass us by and that America will remain the Last Best Hope, and not succumb to being just another entry in the long and vain list of empires."

I was deeply moved. No one before—or since—has summed up what the American Dream really means more succinctly, more clearly, more movingly. And yet, as I drove to the airport, I knew that the prayer was in vain. Goodness by itself no longer sufficed. The fight between "internationalists" and "isolationists" was by then tearing apart the American Dream as much as any war possibly could, or more. Even so, America seemed no closer to a decision. Indeed the fight between the "internationalists" and the "isolationists," each intent on saving the American Dream his way, was paralyzing the national will and was, I thought, endangering America’s very survival and cohesion.

We were half an hour out of Minneapolis when the pilot in an excited voice came in on the intercom and asked us to put on the earphones with which every seat was equipped and listen to the radio. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor! When we landed in Chicago two hours later in the early darkness of a December evening, soldiers were already guarding the hangars and patrolling the corridors. The Age of Innocence was over.

Only a few weeks later America did indeed betray its promises and beliefs to opt for being just another "power" when Roosevelt, to appease the Californians, ordered all Americans of Japanese descent interned.

—Peter F. Drucker, Adventures of a Bystander

...and so it goes.

Luther McLeod said...

I don't really care for your equation there loner. Sounds relativist to me. And with that I do not agree.

loner said...


If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

Same gentleman is responsible for among much, much else:

Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.


We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.

The last ended the Prime Minister's speech of June 4, 1940 in the British House of Commons. The Dunkirk evacuation had been completed the day before. Paris would fall ten days later. The Battle of Britain would begin 36 days later. The Blitz would begin 95 days later. Frankiln Roosevelt would win a third term as President of the United States 154 days later. President Roosevelt would deliver the State of the Union address which included the "Four Freedoms" 216 days later.

This is another of those occaisions when I might have made no comment except for the observation that FDR is an icon of liberal Democrats. At least some people who might think themselves liberal Democrats or who are thought by people who contribute here to be liberal Democrats have a habit of not seeing the relative difference between the current President and a dictator with whom the then President, apparently relatively much like the current President in the view of others who may not think themselves or be thought by others to be liberal Democrats, and the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, were at odds.

Anything relative in this:

Nothing is permanent in this world—except for Roosevelt.

—Preston Sturges, The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Or did I misunderstand?


Luther McLeod said...

My exception to your remark was engendered mostly from this sentence from Drucker... "America did indeed betray its promises and beliefs to opt for being just another "power"".

This country has not been without its mistakes, and likely will make more in the future. But it is most certainly not just another "power".

To my mind the "four freedoms" do embody the sense of American exceptionalism. Whether or not FDR literally believed, which I suspect he did, in the principles of which he spoke, he knew the American people did, at heart, regardless of which side of the aisle they stand on.

I do not understand your last paragraph in your response to my comment. As far as Sturges's quote, ?.

loner said...


The last is the punchline of a joke in a movie made by a great writer-director which says something about attitudes about Roosevelt in a time of great upheaval and change and his perceived status relative to that of everything else. Drucker's point wouldn't be complete without that last paragraph. One of the great things about this country, at least in my view, is that thus far it has always found a way to retrieve its view of itself as exceptional in a good way after one or another failure to live up to its principles, but that retrieval doesn't mean that from time to time, in the real world, it hasn't behaved like any other "power."


Seneca the Younger said...

Loner, I'm sorry, but I just don't have the energy to diagram that sentence and figure out what it means, if anything. But let's take another go, no irony, Hemingway sentences.

I have many disagreements with FDR's policies. Even so, I think what he said there was both true and honest.

I think George W would agree with it.

I agree with it.

I think the current crop of "liberal" Democrats don't believe it.

I think that's a deep indictment of them.

loner said...
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loner said...
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loner said...


My Hemingway response:

One of the difficulties in the language is that all our words from loose using have lost their edge.

Not, in my view, an especially profound criticism, but, also in my view, a true and an honest one insofar as it goes.

Luther McLeod said...

"all our words from loose using have lost their edge"

Thanks loner for the clarification. I would just submit that "exceptional" does not mean perfect. I suppose one could say that exceptional could mean relative to others. In which case the USA, as I see it, still resides at the top of the heap. We started with a great and unique vision 200+ years ago. It is still being worked out, but we have had a great many more successes than failures.

If a majority of us keep a stout heart and take heed from lessons and leaders of the past we will continue as a bastion of hope for many of the world.

Apologies for my polemicist take, but I find myself sensitive about certain things anymore.

loner said...


And my apologies for the misunderstanding. I share your hope, if not your sensitivity.

And as for Peter F. Drucker, well:

There is this from a year ago. I call your attention in particular to the second paragraph. President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

And then there is this from his response to a question from Bill Moyers about the "qualities of leadership we ought to expect in a president" from his late-'80s PBS series, A World of Ideas:

It is the willingness to say, "What is the assignment?"—not "What do I want to do?" but "What has to be done?" It's a certain demanding of oneself and of others a very high standard, and it's a creation of trust. "You mean what you say" may be the wrong way to put it because FDR never meant what he said—but everybody always knew exactly what he meant. You knew you couldn't trust FDR personally. He was slippery as an eel and treacherous. But you knew what he was going to accomplish, so people trusted him, not personally, but as a leader.