Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address: Rockwell & the Four Freedoms

Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address: Rockwell & the Four Freedoms
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President Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address is perhaps best remembered for his descriptions of four basic and necessary freedoms that both Americans and citizens of the world should have. Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship may be things students either take for granted or do not even consider much during their day to day life and, as such, cannot fully grasp the impact that Roosevelt’s speech had on Americans who were watching the world at war and wondering when and if the United States would become entangled in the fray.

Read the address here:

American artist Norman Rockwell captured in images these four iconic freedoms and his paintings, perhaps more than anything else, help to remind Americans today of just how lucky we are to live in this country. Using Roosevelt’s words and Rockwell’s images as a guide have students explore their own feelings about the four freedoms and come to an understanding of how they can express one of them in a visual way.


Using the downloadable power point, have students do the following. Look at Roosevelt’s dream and the quotes from his speech on the “Thoughts to Consider” slide. What is he asking for Americans to support? What is his feeling about those who do not support what he is asking? When he lists his dreams, why is he not dreaming only for America? Why does he encompass the entire world? What role does he see America playing on the world stage? Answer each of those questions in a well developed paragraph. Use quotes from his speech to back up your thoughts.

Then, challenge your students to become a modern Rockwell. Have each of them chose one of the freedoms and express it in one of the following forms: A color collage of images from the news, a water color or oil painting, a small sculpture, or a diorama or other model. Display the work in the classroom or even around the school and allow everyone to see Roosevelt’s dream for the world.

This post is part of the series: Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address, 1941

These two lesson plans cover the state of the union in 1941, and analyze Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech.

  1. Roosevelt, Rockwell, and The Four Freedoms
  2. The Four Freedoms: A Global Perspective