On January 6, 1941, with an eye towards the London blitz and German air raids, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a powerful speech in which he articulated his vision for a postwar world founded on four basic human freedoms. The speech was to encourage America to end its isolationism policy and join World War II. Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was inspired by these words and visualized these freedoms in his own unique small-town neighborly way.
“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.”
Two much loved, admired, and respected Americans – what an enduring legacy they have left for us to reflect upon.
The operation that turned the tide against Nazi Germany in World War II began at dawn on June 6, 1944. Codenamed Operation Overlord, it was the largest amphibious invasion in history – in which US, British, and Canadian troops landed on 5 separate beachheads in Normandy, France, with the purpose of liberating France and Western Europe from the Nazis.
The German Occupation of France started on May 10, 1940. On June 18, 1940 General Charles de Gaulle gave a speech in which he almost predicted the Allied invasion of Normandy to liberate France from the Nazis.
This is how Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the end of World War II 75 years ago today. On May 8, 1945, after six years at war in which millions of young lives were lost, the guns finally fell silent over Europe. The Allies defeated Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and the day became known as VE – Victory in Europe – day.
75 years later the generation that fought this war remains undoubtedly the greatest generation. The sacrifices made by the young men and women of this generation defy understanding, and we owe them an unpayable debt of gratitude for the freedoms we all take for granted. The men that fought this war, those that are still alive, continue to inspire and amaze us to this day. One such hero is World War II veteran captain Tom Moore who turned 100 years old on April 30th.
War veterans like Captain Tom know how to inspire – they have seen the worst of humanity, they have lived to tell about it, they choose to see the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. Captain Tom has singlehandedly brought the UK – perhaps even the world – together at this time – across generations and across all financial and racial boundaries. Captain Tom, a lifelong fan of Britain’s Health system (NHS) decided to walk a 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday to raise $1200 for the NHS.
A world dealing with a pandemic found its hero – and Captain Tom raised $40 million. He received 125,000 cards on his birthday, a Royal Air Force flypast, and a possible knighthood. And like all people of his generation, Captain Tom told the world to remain positive and hopeful: “For all those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.” What an amazing man!!
As the world battles with an enemy of a different sort, on this day when six years of darkness ended, we should pause and remember the heroes of World War II that sacrificed so much, and learn to live life with the same grace that they showed during and after the war, and continue to show to this day.
On this Flag Day, I wanted to honor the flag with this poem by Johnny Cash.
Ragged Old Flag
I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it'll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it
He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you've been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don't like to brag
But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag
You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams
And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag
On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she's been abused
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more
So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag
(Images Courtesy Smithsonian.com, US Govt and War Archives Websites)
He carried these tattoed numbers on his arm for a lifetime, and on this day ltwo years ago, Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, died at the age of 87. He took the holocaust out of history books, and with his powerful words, seared it into our conscience. I wrote this poem after reading his book Night, in which he talks about the last time he saw his mother.
In the cold winter months
with moonless skies,
She flew down from the clouds
to sit on my shoulder
and see me through the night.
I felt her gently
through the tattered fabric
that covered my shoulders and
Striped its way down to my knees;
a vain barrier between skin and snow.
The first time She came
was when I saw Mama last.
They dragged Mama away,
her feet making long tracks
in pure winter snow.
Mama’s body was theirs to kill,
Her soul was God’s alone.
She came from the blackness of the smoke
to light the fire in my soul
and soften the hunger in my belly.
My little sparrow held me up
when I was too weak to stand.
While they starved my body
She nourished my soul,
and stopped me from dying.
I had to live
for Mama, for papa, and Elsa too.
I was the fragment that remained
from the fabric of our lives.
The thread was mine to weave.
Night after night
She sat on my shoulder
to see me through till dawn,
and when I wanted to fly with her
She wanted me to stay.
When finally the gates of hell opened
And the air was ours to breathe
And the land was ours to roam
It was then, and only then
that Mama stopped coming to me at night.
(Image courtesy of Baltimore Jewish life website).