A Letter from Gary Schwartzhoff: The Historical Importance of FDR’s Four Freedoms

Four Freedoms Choral Festival Facebook Event HeaderThe following is a guest post by Dr. Gary R. Schwartzhoff, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Four Freedoms Choral Festival.

Dr. Gary R. Schwartzhoff

Dr. Gary R. Schwartzhoff

The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) has shaped not just the United States of America, but the world as a result of his vision and leadership. His hope for freedom and peace are the basis for our democracy today, as well as around the world.  As Americans, we are all students of his public service, as it is as important today as it was during his presidency.

I am honored to work with each of you to present the Four Freedoms Choral Festival on April 22-24, 2016.  The focus of the concert will be Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1941, the Four Freedoms speech.  This address outlines FDR’s vision for freedom and peace in our world.


Ethan Wickman

Ethan Wickman

I am pleased that Dr. Ethan Wickman, renowned composer and Assistant Professor of Music at University of Texas-San Antonio, has agreed to set the text from this address to an original composition for the concert honoring the 32nd President of the United States.  I have had the pleasure to work with this talented composer on many projects in the past, including the JFK Choral Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2013. FDR cared deeply for the citizens of this country and the hope for our nation. This is the man whom we celebrate in the Four Freedoms Choral Festival, A Musical Tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Franklin Delano RooseveltFDR was the only son of James and Sara Roosevelt. Born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, the future President attended Harvard University in 1900 through 1903, and married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in March 1905.  FDR was the fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. He served as senator (1911-1913) and governor (1929-1932) in the state of New York. He also served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913-1920) during Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, a post previously held by his cousin. He was related to eleven former Presidents by blood or marriage, and was reportedly related to other historic figures, including Winston Churchill. Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector and environmentalist, planting over 500,000 trees in the Hyde Park area.

Though he contracted poliomyelitis in 1921, Roosevelt continued public service, and served our nation as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933-1945 for four unprecedented terms. In 1933, eleven million Americans were unemployed due to the effects of the Great Depression.  The President responded with the New Deal, which focused on economic relief, recovery, and reform. Among the new initiatives were the Social Securing Administration (SSA), Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  During World War II, FDR formed the Grand Alliance, the Allies of World War II, with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, and President Roosevelt of the United States in an effort to defeat Nazi Germany. Among the outcomes of World War II was the formation of the United Nations. Roosevelt passed away while at his retreat at Warm Spring, Georgia on April 12, 1945.

On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt delivered the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress focusing on the Four Freedoms: the Freedom of Speech; the Freedom of Worship; the Freedom from Want; and the Freedom from Fear.  These ideas became the primary principles of the Atlantic Charter as declared by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill in August 1941; the United Nations Declaration of January 1, 1942; President Roosevelt’s vision for an international organization that became the United Nations after his death and the Universal Declaration of Human Right adopted by the United Nations in 1948 through the work of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hylton Performing Arts Center

Hylton Performing Arts Center

The Four Freedoms State of the Union Address is the basis of the commissioned work entitled A Destiny of Liberty by Ethan Wickman. I, Gary Schwartzhoff, will lead The Four Freedoms Choral Festival as artistic director and conductor at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia, nearby Washington, D.C.

I invite you to join us next spring for a wonderful weekend of music in honor of one of the most influential world leaders that ever lived, changing the face of the free world forever during his presidency. I look forward to hearing from you, and please do not hesitate to contact Music Celebrations with any questions of your own. See you in April 2016!

Gary R. Schwartzhoff, Artistic Director and Conductor
The Four Freedoms Choral Festival

The motto of war is: “Let the strong survive; let the weak die.” The motto of peace is: “Let the strong help the weak to survive.” (1936)

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. (1938)

But we have learned that freedom in itself is not enough. Freedom of speech is of no use to a man who has nothing to say. Freedom of worship is of no use to a man who has lost his God. Democracy, to be dynamic, must provide for its citizens opportunity as well as freedom. (1940)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States

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