Rockwell Files: You Have the Floor

Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series, which includes Freedom of Speech, helped raise millions for the war effort.

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In 1942, a town meeting was held in Arlington, Vermont, to discuss plans to build a new school. Most residents were in favor of the plan, but it was known that one attendee, Jim Edgerton, opposed it. When the time came for residents to voice their opinions, Edgerton rose to object. Norman Rockwell, who had recently moved to the area, witnessed the scene as the attendees respectfully listened to Edgerton’s objections.

Only later did Rockwell see a greater significance to that scene as an expression of America’s freedom of speech, one of the Four Freedoms that President Roosevelt said the Allies were fighting for in World War II. Rockwell had been wrestling with the idea of depicting those freedoms, and recalling that lone figure speaking his mind amid a group that opposed him but accorded him the consideration to express himself, he saw it as an everyday example of our rights. Here was a freedom Americans took for granted but which other nations were gambling their existence to obtain.


This article is featured in the May/June 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. A Rockwell classic for sure. For most years since 1942 in this country, this man would have been able to express himself with reasonable civility from those opposing his viewpoint. Today he’d likely be shouted down immediately where he couldn’t say anything, with a high risk of being beaten up and/or shot to death, right there.


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