On January 6, 1941, in his State of the Union address, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned America of complacency, shielded by two mighty oceans, noting:
I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack which we must eventually expect if the dictator nations win this war.
There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists. Even if
there were no British Navy, it is not probable that any enemy would be stupid enough to attack us by landing troops in the United States from across thousands of miles of ocean, until it had
acquired strategic bases from which to operate.
But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in Europe, particularly the lesson of Norway, whose essential seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built up over a series of years.
The first phase of the invasion of this Hemisphere would not be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic points would be occupied by secret agents and their dupes – and great
numbers of them are already here, and in Latin America.
As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive, they -not we — will choose the time and the place and the method of their attack. That is why the future of all the American Republics is today in serious danger.
He also foretold that the enemy would not wait for America to decide to enter the war, but would bring the war to us:
When the dictators, if the dictators, are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on our part. They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands to commit an act of war. Their only interest is in a new one-way international law, which lacks mutuality in its observance, and, therefore, becomes an instrument of oppression.
However, this speech has gone down in history as the “Four Freedoms” speech, so-named for the vision Roosevelt had for the world after the forces of Fascism had been defeated:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon
four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want— which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
These words so inspired America and heartened those people fighting Nazi and Imperial Japanese tyranny, the painter Norman Rockwell was moved to create his famous “Four Freedoms” illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post in the two months following the speech.