Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

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.”

“The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples:

We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.

We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.

We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

The speech also asked for shared sacrifice in the form of taxes,  recognizing that”principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.”


“The Roots of the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving,” Bob Duggan, Big Think


“Find a FoodBank,” Global Foodbanking Network. You can donate online or volunteer.


Short link:

Image (“Freedom From Want 2011, after Norman Rockwell”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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