Stealing the Past

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During a long drive this past weekend, I listened to a book about how geography still affects today’s world, even in this age of technological advances. In the chapter about Korea and Japan, the author wrote about when Japan conquered Korea in 1910. Among the ways that Japan worked to control Korea was to outlaw the Korean language and the teaching of Korean history.

Those of you who have read this blog for very long know my passion for the study of history. As I looked for a picture of a globe to illustrate my post for yesterday, I came across this poster.

The Federal Art Project was one of many New Deal programs the federal government operated during the Great Depression. This poster was part of that project. Artists designed the poster for the Pennsylvania Library Association. The poster promotes the “Four Freedoms.”

When President Franklin Roosevelt gave his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, he spoke to Congress about the war (World War II) that was going on in Europe. He gave this speech eleven months before Japan  attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered the war. The United States was already giving aid to Great Britain. President Roosevelt encouraged Congress to continue this aid. He also spoke of the need to increase production of war materials.

President Roosevelt told Congress that the United States was fighting for freedoms that everyone in the world should have. He said:

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.

You have probably seen the four famous paintings that Norman Rockwell created in 1943 to illustrate these four freedoms. But before Rockwell created his paintings, the Federal Art Project created this poster. Let’s look at it again.

The poster artist used a world, two books, and the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty to illustrate Roosevelt’s words. Of course, 1941 was the year Roosevelt gave the speech. The year 1791 is the year that the Bill of Rights went into effect.

The Library of Congress website notes that this poster has been exhibited at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The poster was displayed there to show “American Responses to Nazi Book Burning.” Whether burning books or outlawing the teaching of a nation’s history or finding some other way to prevent people from knowing about the past, I don’t believe in stealing the lessons of the past from future generations.

As important as the history of America and the history of the world are to our children, of utmost importance is the history of God’s work among the people He made.

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you
in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
that you should remember the words
spoken beforehand by the holy prophets
and the commandment of the Lord and Savior
spoken by your apostles.
2 Peter 3:1-2




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