BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Mom and Dad subscribed to several newspapers and magazines. There were a couple of county papers and two dailies and the Cappers Weekly, the Progressive Farmer and the Farmer-Stockman as well as other agriculture and special interest magazines, but none held my attention like the Saturday Evening Post.
The Post played up its historical ties to Ben Franklin, included excellent stories and its claim to fame were glorious illustrations of Americana by a stable of artists, not the least of which was Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s illustrations of the American family and rural life of a bygone era became icons.
Even though Rockwell began painting for the Post in 1916 as a 22-year-old and through his 50-year career painted more than 300 covers, one of his most memorable appeared on March 6, 1943 and pictured an American family sitting around their dining room table preparing to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
Clearly, the nine adults and two children who are anticipating the carving of the huge golden baked turkey with all the trimmings are the epitome of the bountiful blessings of having “plenty” – not only plenty of food, but also family and emotional support.
While the painting – named “Freedom from Want” – is appropriate as we prepare to pause for Thanksgiving 72 years later, it is also appropriate to note that Rockwell did not simply pull his inspiration from thin air. In fact, the freedom that formed the basis for this piece of art was one of four freedoms that were expressed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt two years earlier in his State of the Union address.
According to Rockwell, in January 1941, he had heard Roosevelt say, “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 – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world.”
As a result of that speech, Norman Rockwell created four timeless paintings that gave hope to a people who were uncertain about their future.
His illustrations were of public expression of ideas; private worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience; personal peace and contentment in the face of world turmoil; and, of course, abundance to overcome want.
The synergy of Roosevelt and Rockwell pulled generations through periods of war and doubt and despair. The ideas they expressed are what set America apart then and today those ideas are still ours.
We are a blessed people, and as we enter the holiday season, it is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families.
Holidays are especially hard for those who are lonely, sad or grieving. Many have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries and emotional needs of all kinds. No one is immune and everyone needs to know that someone cares.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Perryman family to yours.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, serves District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives