Dodona Manor docent Rich Ivey, left, discusses the significance of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Fear" illustration during a July 4, 2020, program at Dodona Manor highlight the significance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 Four Freedoms speech.
During Independence Day reflections at Dodona Manor on Saturday, George C. Marshall International Center board member Tom Greenspon took visitors back to 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined four freedoms that would become foundational post-war international principles.
In January 1941, Marshall’s wife, Katherine, was establishing the recently acquired Leesburg property as a weekend respite for the Army chief of staff.
“She imagined they might come out here for weekends and it might become their permanent home after his tour of duty as the chief of staff ended. Even in the January cold, she was imagining summer flowers and what this place might look like today,” Greenspon said.
But across the oceans, Japanese aggression was increasing, and the Nazi army had overrun Europe and begun the blitzkrieg bombings of London.
Marshall wasn’t thinking about the gardens he would plant at Dodona Manor.
“His first task was to build an army because of the possibility that the United States might soon be drawn into a war on foreign shores,” Greenspon said, noting the standing army had only 174,000 men, ranking as the 19thlargest in the world.
While Marshall built the army that would be called into wartime duty before the end of the year, Roosevelt’s State of the Union address to congress looked forward to a post-war era of international cooperation.
At the end of his speech, Roosevelt proposed four freedoms to which people everywhere in the world are fundamentally entitled: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. This speech was the inspiration for the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
“These are strong words and themes so clearly stated in January 1941 that we now consider them to be essential American values. It is only fitting that we gather to apricate them on a day such as today, our 244th Independence Day,” Greenspon said.
He said the remarks also were intended as a call to arms, but the strong isolationist sentiment in the nation and its government delayed that action until the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“The question of America’s involvement was never truly resolved, but the great debate ended, as we all know, on Dec. 7, 1941.Not by an act of choice or by some national consensus, but because of a hostile act of aggression thrust Americans into war without their consent.”
Two days later, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States.
“Americans had to fight to protect these freedoms and their very lives whether they wanted to or not,” Greenspon said.
Norman Rockwell painted illustrations of the Four Freedoms in 1943, which were used to support war-time bond campaigns. Reproductions were on display at Dodona Manor following the program, with docents on hand to explain the significance of each.