“Freedom from Want” was inspired by America’s Thanksgiving holiday, a time when family and friends gather together to share a meal and spend time together. Many cultures have traditions of giving thanks, such as in Israel the celebration of Sukkot; in Canada, the Jour de l’Action de Grâce; in Korea, Chuseok; in Vietnam, the Tết Trung Thu Festival; in the Uinited Kingdom, London’s Harvest Festival; in Ghana, Homowo Festival; and in China, the August Moon Festival.
Most cultures have a tradition of giving thanks that center on a harvest, or the end of winter and the tradition of the American Thanksgiving is famously based on the Pilgrim’s first harvest celebration in 1621.
When Norman Rockwell depicted Roosevelt’s statement of “Freedom from Want,” he illustrated his own family celebrating together. He included his mother, wife and neighbors in the painting that features a large turkey, one of the few items not limited by rations during World War II. The table is set with the family’s fine china, though the meal is simple. The focus is on the family’s togetherness and the happiness they share during this special meal.
During World War II, many people were limited to rations for daily items such as bread, milk, butter, and meat. Certainly, those in Europe and abroad were suffering more than we in the United States, and while America was considered a world leader, socially and economically many people here did not have much food.
The right to an adequate standard of living was inspired by Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech and is included in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states:
“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All Children, whether born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection.”*
It is interesting that medical care and health were also listed under the right to an adequate standard of living dating back to 1948, yet we are still struggling to assure that these mentioned rights are provided for all people. The forward-thinking ideas of President Roosevelt continue to be needed today wherever we see homelessness, poverty, and lack of universal health care.
How do we help our children understand the concept of human rights? It is sometimes challenging for adults to not only understand the rights of others, but to put it into practice. As we work to gain understanding, to help others understand, our children can benefit from social actions that help to fulfill this promise.
Organizations that enable children to “give back” include churches, temples, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school groups, organizations such as Heal the Bay, and State Park volunteers. Some of the ways children can give back are by volunteering, with their parents, of course, at soup kitchens, having bake sales and donating the money to charitable causes, collecting items needed for homeless and transitional housing shelters, and donating to DonorsChoose to help fund projects in schools.
The importance of seeing a parent or role model dedicated to helping others is crucial here, as we adults are the examples for our children. Quite a few years ago, at Topanga Elementary Charter School, where I teach, parents worked to create a “We Give Back” program as part of our school curriculum. Each grade level had a special project, ranging from studying water runoff to collecting items for homeless shelters, that is not only curriculum-based, but involved all children in a project-based learning experience that directly benefits others.
In Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten we learn about the water cycle and the impact of litter on our oceans. We learn about the water runoff from our school to Topanga Beach and our project at school is to have a school clean-up day, picking up all trash on the ground at school, together with our Big Buddies. At the end of the school year, we take a field trip to the Heal the Bay Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier. There, we learn about the tide pool animals and the impact that the beach litter has on the Bay. This is one way our local children are learning to help our environment and to help others.
Freedom from Want promotes the idea of helping to assure that the basic needs of people are met by volunteering and donations but, most importantly, by the laws our representatives enact to protect our people and provide a basic standard of living for all.
*“Universal declaration of Human Rights”. United Nations.