P.S. 34 Students Learn About FDR’s Four Freedoms
Forty years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation and delivered what would become know as his “four freedoms” speech. Students at P.S. 34 in Manhattan, named the Franklin D. Roosevelt Public School, honored that anniversary recently by learning how Roosevelt’s words are still resonating today.
William J. vanden Heuvel, the former ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, talked to students about the meaning of the speech and took time to answer questions that the fifth-graders had prepared for him.
Rob Morrison, anchor of CBS 2 News This Morning and CBS News at Noon, introduced the ambassador while engaging the assembly of 10-year-olds with examples of what life was like in 1941 when the president made his speech: there was no Internet, TV was a luxury and a stamp cost 3 cents.
The auditorium then fell silent when a clip of Roosevelt started on the projector. The four freedoms Roosevelt extolled are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Vanden Heuvel told the students that these four freedoms have become cornerstones of our democracy and are vital to the democracy of other nations as well.
The students then had an opportunity to ask vanden Heuvel questions they had prepared.
When asked what the tone of the country was like when Roosevelt passed away in 1945, vanden Heuvel said the president’s passing immensely saddened the country, especially since some Americans didn’t even remember any president other than Roosevelt. “They had such a feeling of identity with him,” he said.
Vanden Heuvel was 15 when Roosevelt died. He was so overwhelmed by his death that his class bought him a bus ticket to attend the funeral in Albany, N.Y.
Another student asked why the Four Freedoms Park, which is currently being constructed on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River, is taking so long to complete.
Vanden Heuvel said that the project came to a halt after the architect who designed it, Louis Kahn, passed away in 1974. Since then there have been budget setbacks, but now the park is on schedule to open in the fall of 2012. Visitors will be able to use their cell phones to learn about the history of Roosevelt and the challenging time when he led the country through the Great Depression and World War II.
“The momentum is with us” for completing the park, he said, adding that it will be a gift to the city and to the world when it is completed in 2012. #