Presidents’ Day as a Reflection on the Four Freedoms and Democracy

The Four Freedoms

Presidents’ Day celebrates the life and work of George Washington. It comes every year on the third Monday of February. Although Washington’s birthday is on February 22nd, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday to allow us to enjoy a three day weekend.

Presidents’ Day is also a chance to explore the tenets of democracy and civil freedoms. As mentioned in the November/December Seasons edition of Learning Ahead, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, as outlined in his 1941 State of the Union address, emphasize the importance of the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Remember that you can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge to see Rockwell’s four paintings based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech from 1941.

Throughout the January/February Seasons edition of Learning Ahead, the power of voice has been a strong and present theme. Democracy, as FDR emphasizes in his four freedoms speech, rests on the freedom of speech, the ability to voice your thoughts and speak your mind. At the heart of the freedom of speech and expression is the freedom to use words, story, narrative and voice to share ideas. Some of the greatest literature has been used as a vehicle to voice an ethical philosophy or to act on behalf of social justice. The shared dialogue between author and reader through the written word also depends on the freedom to read. Literature and the power of voice is a shared exchange in which ideas are spoken or written to be heard and read.

[Image credit: Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828), George Washington, 1796–1803. Oil on canvas. The Clark, 1955.16]


Download our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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