By Rex Hammock, CEO

We all know the Norman Rockwell painting above. It’s Thanksgiving Day dinner, and the family’s matriarch is presenting a bountiful feast to several generations of her family. The image has become a powerful graphic embodiment of the gratitude the American holiday symbolizes.

While the artistic merits of the painting have been debated since it was created in 1943, it’s impossible to challenge the impact and power of the illustration and the three other paintings in a series known as “The Four Freedoms.”

The Rockwell paintings appeared as covers of four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post in February and March of 1943: “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom of Worship,” “Freedom from Want” and “Freedom from Fear.” The paintings actually originated three years earlier—inspired by the January 1941 State of the Union address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, arguably one of the most powerful podcasts streamed before there was such a thing.

How powerful?
The themes of “The Four Freedoms” became a part of the charter of the United Nations. The four paintings also became the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by The Post and the U.S. Department of the Treasury that raised more than $132 million for the war effort.

At one time the posters were commonly displayed in post offices, schools, clubs, railroad stations and a variety of public buildings. That’s when people began to notice how images could define a holiday, as well as expound upon what it means to be an American and the importance of gratitude.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week—and be thankful for the freedoms we’ve been granted.

Note: Please visit our annual Thanksgiving Message.

Art: Norman Rockwell, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain

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