Eleanor Roosevelt, who championed the late president’s legacy, ceaselessly touted FDR’s freedoms as an appropriate summation of democracy and human rights, and war weary nations agreed. Enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Four Freedoms are a testament and an inspiration that arose from the ashes of war to affirm the precious nature of freedom everywhere in the world.
The Four Freedoms have continued to play a prominent role in national and international thought. Many constitutions have adopted these ideals as a guarantee of human rights. Heroic individuals—from those who have fought for the rights of enslaved populations to those who have dared to criticize totalitarian governments—have been recipients of the Roosevelt Institute’s Four Freedoms Awards. The Four Freedoms Park, a memorial to FDR on New York’s Roosevelt Island, is a reminder of the challenge that we continue to face in upholding freedom at home and abroad.
Rockwell’s interpretations, too, have lived on. His Four Freedoms are among the most recognizable images in American history. Whether we encounter them in the original, in print, or online, they are constant reminders of the profound influence of visual imagery on the human imagination. They reveal FDR’s timeless ideals in real world terms, even as they remind us that we, too, are heirs to these cherished values.