Secretary-General's remarks at Four Freedoms Park [as prepared for delivery]
New York, 18 October 2012
It is a profound privilege to join with all of you in this celebration of the Four Freedoms Park.
From our perch just across the River, I have watched this Park slowly take shape. The construction took many months. As we can all testify today, it was well worth the wait.
No single person was more instrumental in the founding of the United Nations than Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He had the vision. He helped develop the plans. He even gave us our name.
He did not live long enough to see the United Nations come to pass.
Yet his words guide us every day as we seek to advance peace and security … promote development … and uphold human rights around the world.
President Roosevelt was driven by a global vision.
He understood that an individual’s dreams were not restricted by that individual’s passport. He knew that aspirations could not be confined to national borders.
And he believed deeply that leaders everywhere must help people everywhere live those dreams.
Nothing speaks to that conviction more than the Four Freedoms.
The concept and formulation came straight from President Roosevelt. One night, he dictated the passage word-for-word to his advisors.
One of them questioned whether the Four Freedoms should apply “everywhere in the world.”
“That covers a lot of territory,” the advisor said, “I don’t know how interested Americans are going to be in the people of Java.”
President Roosevelt replied: “I’m afraid they will have to be someday. The world is getting so small that even the people in Java are getting to be our neighbours now.”
In the 21st century, we are all neighbors now.
And I can assure you that freedom of speech … freedom of worship … freedom from want and from fear resonates as deeply with a person from small-town America as it does with a person from small-town Korea.
More than 60 years later, the Four Freedoms remain a guide post. And this Park will be a lighthouse.
It will be a source of comfort knowing that FDR is looking out on the United Nations – and it will be a source of inspiration looking out on him from the 38th floor.
Of course, there are those who might question idealism.
But President Roosevelt had a ready reply for those who criticized the Four Freedoms as pie-in-the-sky.
He said had those same people lived at the time of the American Revolution, they would have “dismissed the Declaration of Independence as utter piffle. If they had lived a thousand years ago, they would have laughed…at the ideals of the Magna Carta. We conceded that these great teachings are not perfectly lived up to today,” he said, “but I would rather be a builder than a wrecker.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
We at the United Nations are also in the building business.
And as we celebrate what you have built here today – we pledge to continue building on the goals and the values of the Four Freedoms and the United Nations Charter for all people and all time.
Statements on 18 October 2012