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On this day in history, Jan. 6, 1941, FDR delivers Four Freedoms speech, steeling Americans for World War II

President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined "Four Freedoms" in his State of the Union address of Jan. 6, 1941, as he prepared Americans for the inevitable entry into World War II.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a dramatic call to the American people to protect and defend four universal human ideals in his State of the Union address on this day in history, Jan. 6, 1941. 

The speech came amid the frightening and seemingly unstoppable march of military tyranny around the world. 

Now known as the Four Freedoms speech, FDR's remarks that day served as a spiritual call to arms for the American people who, before the year was out, would be thrust violently into World War II.

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Roosevelt cited freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear, as warfare consumed much of the rest of the planet.

More than 400,000 Americans would give their lives to the cause of those Four Freedoms in all corners of the planet by the end of World War II in 1945. 

"Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly waged in four continents," Roosevelt told both houses of Congress in his eighth State of the Union speech.

"If that defense fails, all the population and all the resources of Europe, and Asia, and Africa and Australasia will be dominated by conquerors."

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Nazi Germany by early 1941 had conquered most of Europe and North Africa. 

It was pulverizing London and other major British cities by air attack daily and was about to launch a deep foray into the Soviet Union. 

Imperial Japan by early 1941 had occupied or conquered the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and much of Mainland China, committing horrific atrocities along the way.

Japan by the end of the year would launch a massive multi-prong offensive across Asia and the Pacific, including its Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.

FDR's speech dug deep into the foundational values of the Declaration of Independence. 

The president was preparing the American people for their inevitable entry into the global conflict by appealing to the nation's most deeply cherished values. 

The speech included a more practical appeal to congressional leaders and the nation to ramp up wartime industries in preparation for the coming conflict. 

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The Four Freedoms, Roosevelt said, are "no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."

Roosevelt's address inspired a series of"Four Freedom" paintings by artist Norman Rockwell, which he produced in 1942 following America's entry into the war. 

His richly human images powerfully captured values which propelled the United States into World War II. The Rockwell paintings are still commonly seen on social media today, often serving as memes or to illustrated political causes. 

One popular image, "Freedom of Speech," shows a man in work clothes, dutifully stepping up to be heard at a town meeting. Another, "Freedom from Want," shows a family happily awaiting a bountiful holiday dinner. 

Rockwell was already engaged in illustrating images for the war effort on behalf of the US government, but "wanted to do more," writes the Normal Rockwell Museum. 

He "decided he would illustrate Roosevelt’s four freedoms. While mulling it over, Rockwell, by chance, attended a town meeting where one man rose among his neighbors and voiced an unpopular view. That night Rockwell awoke with the realization that he could paint the freedoms best from the perspective of his own hometown experiences using every day, simple scenes such as his own town meeting."

The paintings were published by the Saturday Evening Post in February 1943. 

They quickly became iconic images that captured the purpose of the war for millions of Americans in a few homespun images.

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"The paintings were a phenomenal success," the Norman Rockwell Museum states. 

"After their publication, the Post received 25,000 requests for reprints."

The government originally rejected his offer to use them for the war effort. But the overwhelming popularity inspired a sudden change of heart. 

Federal officials adopted the illustrations as part of the national effort to sell war bonds and stamps to fund the march to victory. 

"There is only one speech in American history that inspired a multitude of books and films, the establishment of its own park, a series of paintings by a world-famous artist, a prestigious international award and a United Nation’s resolution on Human Rights," Paul M. Sparrow wrote on behalf of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. 

"The words of the speech are enshrined in marble at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York, are visualized in the paintings of Norman Rockwell, inspired the international Four Freedoms Award and are the foundation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948."

Following victory by the U.S. and its Allies in World War II, constitutional republics were adopted by former military powers Germany, Japan and scores of other nations around the world. 

Millions of people could now enjoy for the first time ever the freedoms expressed by Roosevelt on Jan. 6, 1941, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. 

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