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Roosevelt and Obama: Critical Analysis of Two Speeches


The concept of personal freedoms to which every citizen of the United States is entitled from birth is a rather peculiar one since defining the exact range of freedoms is quite complicated. While some of the freedoms are quite self-explanatory, such as the freedom of thought, others may come into questioning about them being an irrefutable right. Even the notion of free speech may seem quite a complex subject to tackle since it is very hard to mark where the line between free speech and hate speech should be drawn. However, by far the most interesting concept of freedom is the one introduced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his famous speech. Namely, the concept of the freedom of fear deserves closer speculation as one of the cornerstones of U.S. philosophy and the focus on safeguarding American citizens. Although the idea of the freedom of fear since it was introduced by FDR remained the same, it has experienced certain permutations, leading to the creation of juxtaposition of freedom to fear as introduced by Barack Obama.

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Analysis: “The Four Freedoms”

Although the notions of fear and freedom are admittedly basic and are likely to have occurred in previous discourse, they were cemented in the famous speech of FDR, in which he famously defined the concept of personal liberty as freedom from fear (Roosevelt, 1941). Although being quite self-explanatory and seemingly obvious, the statement gained fame afterward and defined the attitudes toward personal freedoms within American society for many years. Examining the core idea within the specified statement, one will need to address the context in which it was made. Defined by Roosevelt as the fundamental human right, it was coined shortly after the eruption of WWII, which was by far the greatest bloodshed in the history of humankind. Therefore, facing the looming threat of WWII, American citizens experienced a variety of fears regarding their personal safety, economic status, social freedoms, and general access to basic resources. Therefore, by ensuring the American population that they will be relieved of the necessity to fear for their lives and well-being, FDR defined the notion of freedom through the prism of WWII society.

Analysis: Welcoming Remarks by President Obama

Deviating from the idea of the freedom of fear as it was established by FDR, Obama shifted the focus to a different subject in his speech. As a result, the notion of the freedom of fear has transformed into the interpretation of freedom as a phenomenon that is alien to fear and, instead, is tied to other characteristics of citizens’ well-being and agency. The effects of the specified transition from one interpretation of freedom to another are staggering since they indicate the evolution of the perception of basic human rights. Specifically, the idea that fear should be in any capacity tied to one’s legal freedoms or safety has been out of the question since Obama’s speech.

Moreover, the described shift in the interpretation of personal freedom aligns with the concept of equality and the support of vulnerable communities that lack representation in American society and, therefore, face the threat of oppression. Specifically, the following excerpt from Obama’s speech illustrates the change of focus toward the needs of vulnerable populations: “[…] including the brave citizens of the Middle East and North Africa, who deserve the same God-given rights and freedoms as people everywhere” (Obama, 2012). The statement above proves that the transition from the notion of the four freedoms established by FDR to a more nuanced, multifaceted interpretation of personal freedoms has occurred. The emphasis on the urgency of meeting the rights of those that have been marginalized within the American society indicates that the change from the concept of equality toward the idea of equity has taken place. Namely, the principles of equal opportunities have been set, which can be interpreted as a stupendous progress compared to the simplified description of the four freedoms offered by FDR.


The concept of freedom and its relation to fear have been addressed in American society for a while and have gained greater attention after the WWII erupted, yet the evolution of the relationship between the two notions has led to defining personal freedom through equality. The described progression can be witnessed clearly in the speeches of FDR and Barack Obama correspondingly as the lines between freedom and fear are transformed. While FDR referred to freedom and fear as two separate entities, Obama defines one through another, implying that freedom becomes unattainable once the presence of fear lingers. The observation mentioned above addresses the changes occurring in American society as it shifted from the WWII environment to the repent-day setting, where new tangible threats to people’s safety and well-being have emerged. However, by juxtaposing freedom and fear, Obama also implies that personal freedoms may be bound by prejudices against those whom people fear and whom they tend to alienate. Thus, the transformation of the concept of freedom of fear toward the notion of equity in cross-cultural relationships has occurred.


Roosevelt, F. D. (1941). The four freedoms. Web.

Obama, B. (2012). Welcoming remarks by President Obama to Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom. Web.

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