On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would force the United States into World War II. As President Franklin Roosevelt had said almost a year earlier to Congress, on January 6, “At no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.” Roosevelt then enumerated the four freedoms that were necessary for a nation to survive. Working from his home in Arlington, Vermont, Norman Rockwell, one of America’s most celebrated artists and illustrators, labored throughout the next year to complete a series of paintings for The Saturday Evening Post that illustrated those principles. His sequence, Rockwell hoped, would serve a purpose “bigger than a war poster,” while making “some statement about why the country was fighting the war.”
In spite of the artist’s typical worries that his finished product wouldn’t be good enough, Rockwell’s portrayals of the “Four Freedoms” were finished at last at the end of January, 1943. Freedom of Speech materialized from a town meeting where someone spoke out against a planned school building, and those both for and against allowed the neighbor to talk. Suddenly Rockwell realized, There it is.