In June 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued their Atlantic Charter, in which they described 4 essential human rights:
Freedom of Speech ★ Freedom of Religion ★ Freedom from Want ★ Freedom from Fear
At home, in Arlington, Vermont, the legendary artist Norman Rockwell was inspired. Rockwell was too old to enlist, but he wanted to make a statement in pictures why Americans were sending their boys to war. His wife suggested he “paint the ideas, not the words.”
One night, Rockwell attended an Arlington Town Meeting. One of his neighbors (a very likeable farmer) stood up and spoke. Everybody in the room disagreed with the man’s opinion, but no one interrupted. After all, in America, everyone has the right to freedom of speech. Norman was, once again, inspired! He decided to illustrate “The Four Freedoms” in everyday American scenes, using his Vermont neighbors as his models.
The Saturday Evening Post published “The Four Freedoms” – and long before the term was used - the images went “viral”. The four paintings became iconic images.
By 1943, the U.S. Treasury was broke and the Allied Forces were struggling across the Atlantic. Because of the images’ popularity, The Treasury Department asked Rockwell to go on tour with his original “Four Freedoms” paintings - and sell war bonds.
At a time when the war was going against the Allies, those pictures raised $133 million dollars (The equivalent of $1.7 billion today!). That influx of cash changed the course of the war – and history.
And it all happened, because an Arlington farmer had the courage to stand up and proudly speak his mind at a town hall meeting. While Norman Rockwell’s four paintings remain legendary, the time is ripe for young artists and poets to personally interpret the essential meaning of these freedoms and how they impact our society today.