The Four Freedoms
Social Studies Infer Meaning / Determine Importance
President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the radio to communicate with Americans.
By January 1941, World War II had been raging
in Europe for more than a year. When President
Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to Congress on
January 6, the question on everyone’s mind was
whether the United States would enter the war.
Roosevelt called on the United States to support
Britain with arms and supplies without going
to war. During this speech, he outlined basic
principles for a world order. These included
what became known as the “four freedoms.”
This is what Roosevelt said in his speech:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon
four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic
understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its
inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide
reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation
will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—
anywhere in the world.
That is 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.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able
to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
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10778 (i2025) Exploring Nonfiction • Second Edition —Level 8 © TIME For Kids
1. Why do people make speeches?
2. What does it mean to be free?
3. Preview the title and picture. What
do you predict you will read about?
1. What is the reason or occasion for
2. What are the four freedoms?
3. What idea is repeated with each
of the freedoms, and why do you
suppose that idea is repeated?
1. Which of these freedoms do you
consider most important? Why?
2. What do you learn from reading the
actual speech that you might not learn
from reading about the speech in a
3. Do you think it is right for one country
to be concerned about the political
situation in another country? Why or
Listening for What Isn’t Said
The news was grim. Armies were marching across Europe and
Britain was under attack. The United States, only recently coming out of
a terrible economic depression and still vividly remembering the effects
of a world war 20 years before, was unsure about its place on the world
stage. It was in this atmosphere that President Franklin Roosevelt gave
the speech you read.
Every person who heard this speech or read it in the newspapers in
the days that followed it was “reading between the lines” to get answers
to the questions that were heavy on their minds: Would the United States
go to war again? How would the nation respond to the threat of the
German government attacking every European ally? Notice that the
president doesn’t answer these questions directly, but there are hints and
clues that a good listener (or reader) could pick up on to help him or her
draw a conclusion about the president’s plans.
The “Four Freedoms” speech clearly described what Roosevelt—
along with many of the American people—valued, especially after their
experience with World War I. It is meant to contrast what was being
demonstrated by the German armies in Europe. This contrast shows that
the United States was “choosing sides” in the conflict. At the same time,
Roosevelt’s emphasis on reducing fear by reducing weapons can be
understood as an intention to stay out of the war. You may know from
your knowledge of history that the United States didn’t stay out of this
war in the end, but this speech gives you a glimpse of the hopes of a
nation during a terrible time.
Think about an issue that matters to you—economic,
humanitarian, environmental, or political. Write a
persuasive speech or editorial to express your point of view,
and remember to clearly outline your points and keep your
sentences short and understandable. Practice reading your
speech or editorial to ensure that it flows naturally.
10778 (i2025) Exploring Nonfiction • Second Edition —Level 8 © Teacher Created Materials Publishing