As Americans enjoy food and family at Thanksgiving dinner today, many will have an image of a Norman Rockwell painting in mind, an image of domestic warmth and plenty. But that painting was commissioned as a magazine illustration for a 1943 Saturday Evening Post issue based on one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. The painting’s name: “Freedom From Want.” It was paired with an astounding essay by poet and novelist Carlos Bulosan, whose work and life deserve more attention.
FDR’s speech had been delivered two years earlier, while the country, still emerging from the Depression, was burdened with the expense of providing support for allies in a war the U.S. had not yet entered. Today the speech is remembered for the Four Freedoms, but it also recognized that “there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.”