FOUR FREEDOMS

 

By simple form, Roosevelt Island is a mini version of Manhattan in the East River, but without the buildings. Two miles (3km) long and 800 feet (240m) at its widest point, it is a perfect place to discover on foot. The easiest way to reach the island is the suspended Tram or the F Subway train. The Tram offers a spectacular view, needless to say.

If until now the peace and the views on the Manhattan skyline were the main reasons for a visit, Roosevelt Island now has another major attraction: the Four Freedoms Park.

Plans to open a park at the southernmost point of the island existed for decades already. It is only since last month that it has finally been inaugurated.

The park, like the island, is dedicated to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in particular to his famous State of the Union Address to the Congress on January 6, 1941.

The facts that Roosevelt led his country through the Great Depression and that he gave this speech at the beginning of World War II and less than a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, put his words in a very special light.

The former president of the United States proclaimed that every individual, anywhere in the world, is entitled to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Although far from being a global reality, we are familiar with the notions of freedom of speech and worship. Very remarkable were Roosevelt’s ideas of the right to lead an economically comfortable life (freedom from want) in a world without war (freedom from fear).

If he was too ambitious to believe that these ideals could be achieved before the turn of the millennium, his vision certainly survived in the founding of the United Nations and The Declaration of Human Rights.

Food for thought. The Four Freedoms Park is a good place for thinking. Or just a quiet island to hang around, away from the busy city streets. Or a perfect view point on the Manhattan skyline…or the United Nations Headquarters.

The UN buildings have been severely damaged by hurricane Sandy’s passage. Just opposite, across the river, I am sure that Franklin Roosevelt’s speech is still standing firmly and unwavering.

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