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19-A Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, The Saturday Evening Post, 1943
Elena Tsatsura



Art Work

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, 1943


Democracy, Freedom, Courage

U.S. History

American Freedoms, Freedom of students’ expression

Lesson Plan Title

Express yourself

Skills Covered

Analyzing primary source documents, interpreting written information, making inferences and drawing conclusions, comparison/contrast, thinking critically and politically, creating a project.

General Goal(s)

  • Analyze the picture in English from an integrated point of view;
  • combine the imagery of the picture and the historical events connected with it;
  • learn more about N. Rockwell and the story of his painting; 
  • discuss critically the 4 freedoms, proclaimed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and think critically over the freedom of students’expression in the U.S.schools;
  • compare and contrast American school freedom to thet in the students’ home country.

Specific Objectives

  • Discuss what freedom of speech really is and how important it is for every individual and every democratic society;
  • analyze the artistic means by which the picture “Freedom of speech” reflects the idea of free speech;
  • analyze how the artistic techniques (composition, light, artistic vision) contribute to the content and the imagery of the picture.

Materials/ Visual Aids



Find the image at




1. Look at the picture by N. Rockwell. Use your imagination to answer the worm-up questions:

  • Who might be the man in the picture? What is his job? What is he saying?
  • Who are the people around him? What is their reaction to his speech?
  • Where is the scene taking place?
  • What historic epoch might it be? Is it close to nowadays?
  • How would you define the general atmosphere of the picture?

I Handy vocabulary
The words from the chart below can help you describe the atmosphere of the picture and your impressions of it.


The man is
The man’s look is

valiant                     initiative                 aggressive          
scared                       ordinary                 a devoted speaker
brave                       hesitating               courageous       
stunning                   open                      determined


The people look

inspired                    frightened              amazed
shocked                    stunned                 entertained
passive                     disturbed               enthusiastic





2. What might be the name of the picture? Work in small groups of 3 – 4 people and think of a name for N. Rockwell’s image. Present it to the group and explain your choice.

3. Read the story of N. Rockwell’s picture in the same small groups and say how the original name and the concept of the picture are similar or different from the name that you suggested.

Artist’s inspiration

The picture that you now see is called “Freedom of speech” and it belongs to the series of Rockwell’s works under the title “The Four Freedoms” (1942).

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerted Congress to the necessity of an impending war in January 1941, he identified four ideas—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—which were central to the New Deal and which were also to guide his wartime policies. Yet despite an effort on the part of the government to communicate these ideas, by the summer of 1942 a survey revealed that a majority of Americans had little knowledge of the Four Freedoms. This situation inspired American illustrator Norman Rockwell to create one of his greatest artistic achievements. He conceived The Four Freedoms as four idealized scenes of these freedoms in ordinary American life. These first appeared in 1943 as covers for the popular The Saturday Evening Post magazine before touring the country in an exhibit promoting the purchase of War bonds.

4. Continue the following sentences to show your understanding of the text:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt identified …
  • Creating his illustrations in 1942 N. Rockwell was inspired by…
  • Rockwell’s conceived The Four Freedoms as …

5. Go to http://www.americainwwII.com/stories/fourfreedoms.html and learn more about N. Rockwell’s bio, pictures and the historic context of his works. Share your information with the class.

6. Rockwell’s picture artistically symbolizes one of the basic freedoms of American society. Freedom of speech is the right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment o the “Bill of rights”, which is a part of the American Constitution. Read the first 1st Amendment to the Constitution and say how you understand it. What other rights does it guarantee?
Amendment I.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Think of some particular examples of the following freedoms:

  • The free exercise of religion
  • The freedom of speech or of the press
  • The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government

7. In this task you will learn more about the famous F. Roosevelt’s speech that inspired N. Rockwell to draw his paintings. Read the abstract below and fill in the chart with the missing Freedoms and their definitions given by President Roosevelt. Elicit as much information as possible.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, State of the Union 194, 6 January 1941

Setting out the vision that would guide his war policy in the months to come, Roosevelt told Congress:
“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”.

8. Answer the following questions:

  • What is freedom according to F. Roosevelt?
  • What freedoms did he consider to be essential human freedoms? How did he define them?
  • Why do you think N. Rockwell was so inspired by Roosevelt’s speech?
  • How does N. Rockwell’s first picture present F. Roosevelt’s understanding of freedom of speech?
  • How does Rockwell himself understand freedom of speech according to his picture?

9. Read the following quotes by world-famous people and proverbs about freedom of speech. Consider critically different interpretations of it. Compare and contrast them to F. Roosevelt’s definition.

Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.
Salman Rushdie

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind. 

                       Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A people which is able to say everything becomes able to do everything.

Napoleon Bonaparte

When you have spoken the word, it reigns over you. When it is unspoken you reign over it.                         
Arabian Saying

Speech is civilization itself. The word... preserves contact – it is silence which isolates.
Thomas Mann

At no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a man hits his thumb with a hammer.
Marshall Lumsden

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
George Orwell

The wound of words is worse than the wound of swords.
Arabian Proverb



10. Discuss the following questions in class:

  • How are these definitions different from each other?
  • What negative sides of free speech do some of these quotes underline?
  • Which definition do you personally agree or disagree with? Why?
  • How do people understand freedom of speech in your country?
  • Where is the limit to freedom of speech or it shouldn’t be limited at all?
  • Can somebody’s freedom of speech hurt another person?
  • Describe the situations from your own experience that can illustrate positive or negative aspects of freedom of speech.

11.  Work in small groups of 3 – 4 students and debate the problem of freedoms in your society.  Fill in the chart below. In squares put the freedoms that already exist in your society. In circles describe the freedoms that are missing, but should be introduced.

12. Work individually for 3 minutes and write your own definition of freedom of speech basing on all the information you’ve learned. Share your ideas with the class:
Ëĺíňŕ ëčöîě ââĺđő: Freedom of speech  _________________________  ___________________  _________   



13. As food for thought you will be given a story about  famous “John Tinker Case” that took place in the U.S. in 1965 when some students were forbidden by the school’s officials to express their political views. Read the text and be ready to make your critical judgments of the problem. Use handy vocabulary for some of the terms.
IHandy vocabulary

to be involved in

to participate, take an active part in some process.

to publicize a position

to make smb’s opinion clear to the public, to show it openly to people. For example with the help of a banner, speech or symbols.

a truce

a peaceful solution to cease fire

an armband

a piece of material that a person wears around the arm as a sign of something, for example a protest.

to prohibit

to officially forbid or ban

to suspend

to stop, to make smb. not active temporarily or permanently.

School speech vs. public speech.
In the 60s the U.S. were involved in the War in Vietnam. Thousands of young American soldiers were sent to Vietnam by the government and many of them died. A lot of Americans were in a strong political opposition to the Vietnam War.
In December 1965 a group of students in the Des Moines public school system decided to protest the war. John Tinker, 15 years old, his 13-year-old sister Mary Beth, and 16-year-old Christopher Eckhardt sought to publicize their antiwar position and their support for a truce and peace by wearing black armbands to school in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays.
School principal and other administrators became aware of the plan to wear armbands and immediately adopted a new policy that prohibited the wearing of armbands. Students who refused to remove them would be suspended until they agreed not to wear them.
Go to
to learn more about the case. Share the information with the class.

14. What is your own opinion of the following problematic questions:

  • Were the students right to express their protest by wearing the armbands or not?
  • Was the school principal right or wrong to suspend the students for their protest to the official government policy?
  • Was students’ protest dangerous to the school discipline?
  • What do you think might have happened if the officials didn’t stop the students?
  • Does freedom of speech exist in your community (family, school, university)?
  • Does your school / university administration allow you to express your views openly?
  • Should schools / universities restrict student’s freedom of speech or not? Why?

15. John Tinker’s father, who thought that the principle violated his son’s right for free speech took this case, first, to the District Court and then to the Supreme Court. Court justices gave quite different oppinions of the case.
Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinker_v._Des_Moines_Independent_Community_School_District
Read the Justices’ resolutions and say which one you basicly agree or disagree with.

16. Role-play the situation in the Supreme court with the whole class. Distribute the following roles among all the students:

  • John Tinker, 15 years old
  • Mary Beth, his sister, 13-year-old
  • Christopher Eckhardt, 16-year-old
  • John Tinker’s father
  • The school principal
  • The board of the school officials
  • Justice Fortas
  • Justice Black
  • Other students and their parents

Spend 3 minutes organizing your ideas and forming your arguments. After that start the debate according to your parts. Express your opinion freely and remember that the Court will have to come up only with one resolution.

17. Write a composition on the following topics: “School speech vs. public speech”, “Child’s freedom of speech in the family”, “Freedom of speech. Limit or leave it”.
Express your personal view of the problems mentioned above and boost your essay with own examples.

18. Gaze at the picture and say:

  • How many elements does the picture contain?
  • How are they related to each other?
  • Is the picture symmetrical?
  • How did the artist achieve the balance in the picture?
  • Where is the light concentrated and why?
  • What ate the basic colors of the painting? How do they convey the message of the picture? Pay special attention to the color of the speaker’s shirt.
  • What can you say about people’s face expressions?

To analyze and interpret N. Rockwell’s Freedom of speech one should remember, that Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were not simply pictures as commonly understood; they served as illustrations for Saturday Evening Post.
Illustration -     1. The act of clarifying or explaining.
                          2. Material used to clarify or explain.

According to the definition of “illustration” the artist’s goal was to create inspirational images to help drive the war effort, to “clarify and explain” people F. Roosevelt’s words. He struggled with the challenge of devoting his talent to something “bigger” than a war poster, wishing to make some statement about why the country was fighting the war. Therefore, N. Rockwell created his pictures not to make people simply gaze at them but to push them to act.
In this situation the most challenging work for the artist was to form his vision of Roosevelt’s freedoms, find a good prototype and invest the message into them. The terms may be defined in the following way:
Artistic vision – is power of an artist’s imagination, an ability to see artistic images in everyday life objects. It is also an ability to foresee the future reality, visualize the complete image of a painting before it is actually created.
For example, artistic vision is an ability to see image in a group of clouds or constellation. If gazing at a cloudy sky a person can see a herd of walking elephants instead of the clouds themselves, he is either crazy of artistically gifted and has an ability of artistic vision.

19. Check your artistic vision.In the picture beneath you can see a frog. But if you look closer there is also an image of another beautiful animal. Can you see it?

(The picture was created by E. Tsatsura, The author of the lesson plan! All copyrights are preserved!)

If you managed to see another animal here, you certainly have artistic vision. If you did not, go to page 16 of Appendix and find it out.
Message in art – is the actual information that an artist wants to transmit to the audience with the help of the image.
For example, a photograph of a beautiful nature sight can transmit the message of saving and protecting wild nature.
Prototype – a real person who inspires the artist’s vision and becomes a model for his picture image.
For example, the prototypes for the American Statue of Liberty were Frederic Bartholdy’ mother and wife. The French sculptor gave the statue the face of his mother and the body of his wife.  

20. Read the story of Rockwell’s creating his painting and define his vision of freedom of speech, his message to the audience and the prototype of the central figure.
Searching for a vision
Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech had struck a chord with Rockwell, but the lofty language contrasted sharply with Rockwell’s folksy images of small-town America.
Tossing and turning one night over the problem, he woke up remembering a recent town meeting in Arlington, Vermont where he lived at that time. He remembered how his neighbor, Arlington resident and manual laborer Jim Edgerton, had stood up during the meeting and aired an unpopular opinion. Instead of objecting to his remarks, his fellow citizens honored Edgerton's right to speak his piece. Here was Roosevelt’s vision in action. Rockwell decided that citizens’ respect for Edgerton's unpopular viewpoint perfectly illustrated Roosevelt's idea of Freedom of Speech.
Rockwell painted the characters as strongly contrasting. The central figure stands above the rest. He is dressed in working clothes that have a slightly rough quality. He has a determined look on his face. In his pocket is a rolled up program for the meeting. All eyes are on the speaker.

21. Answer the questions:

  • Was it easy for the artist to find the vision?
  • What event gave him the vision for the picture? Why?
  • Who became Rockwell’s prototype for the picture? Why?

22. Imagine you are N. Rockwell, who has just got the vision for your picture “Freedom of speech”. You come to your best friend to share the emotions. Your picture is not written yet, you don’t even have a sketch of it to show your friend. Use the information of the text and describe your vision with words from Rockwell’s personality.

23. Go to http://www.google.ru/images and find the rest of Rockwell’s Freedoms. Describe the picture that you like best of all and present it to the class. Say how the images convey the idea of freedom depicted.

24. Go to
There you will find an images of M. L. King pronouncing his famous “I have a Dream” speech and a young feminist girl fighting for women’s rights.
Look at the images and say how similar they are to of Rockwell’s poster. Discuss the major differences between the 3 images.
The following questions may help you to organize your thoughts:

  • How different are the people in the pictures from the point of view of age, sex, skin color and epoch?
  • What is similar and different in their postures and face expressions?
  • Contrast and compare the atmosphere and the people surrounding the speakers?
  • How does the color of the picture add to its idea?
  • What kind of social freedoms they might be fighting for?

25.  Martin Luther King was an outstanding leader and fighter for the Civil Rights of the black people of the U.S. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk
and listen to the speech.
Read the speech at
Answer the following questions.

  • What kind of dream does Martin Luther King have?
  • Which freedoms does he present in his speech?
  • What are the words and phrases that make this speech inflammatory and inspiring?

26. Work in groups of 4 – 5 students and act out one of the three pictures that inspired you most.

  • Create your own inflammatory Freedom speech and put it into the lips of the central figure. If necessary use “I have a dream…” speech as a model.
  • Stage the background atmosphere of the picture, make the surrounding people speak too.
  • Show their encouraging or discouraging reaction to speaker’s words. 
  • Make a competition judging both acting and speech.
  • Be free expressing your emotions. Exercise your freedom of speech but remember that the words of freedom shouldn’t hurt others!


  • Section “On the surface” / 19

You now see a head of a horse. 

(The picture was created by E. Tsatsura, The author of the lesson plan! All copyrights are preserved!)
Good luck in developing your artistic vision!