During his 1941 State of the Union address, Franklin Roosevelt articulated what he considered humanity’s four essential freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want. In American recent history those freedoms have been attacked in different ways and in different degrees. At this moment we are a hurting country in many respects.
But right around the corner comes Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. A holiday on which families come together, put aside their petty disagreements and bond once again with love. No one tries to sell Thanksgiving paraphernalia, except maybe a recently sacrificed turkey. And for a few hours the Christmas shopping season that kicked off around Labor Day doesn’t exist.
Following Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, American artist Norman Rockwell set out to depict them on canvas. Rockwell was a humble man; he called himself an “Illustrator,” not an artist. Didn’t think he was good enough for that.
On 3 March 1942, his Freedom From Want graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine. He decided the best way to portray Freedom From Want was through a family’s Thanksgiving dinner. His painting, as well as the three other Freedom covers he painted for The Saturday Evening Post that year, has become iconic.
We whose job it is to push the workers’ compensation rock up the Sisyphean mountain, all the while trying our best to help men and women who have had their lives interrupted by workplace injury or illness, have taken it on the chin lately. We’re not alone in that, of course. So many of our fellow citizens are bruised also. Perhaps we, and all Americans, should put that aside and take a moment to ponder Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms and Rockwell’s sometimes loving, sometimes searing, portrait of them and recommit ourselves to the existential exceptionalism that is the American Dream. Perhaps we should grasp tightly the good feelings that ooze out of Thanksgiving and in that moment dedicate ourselves to helping not only those who place their trust in our professional competence but also all who are momentarily lost and searching for better lives for themselves and their loved ones.