July 4, 2012
Four stories of freedom
By Kelley Bouchard, Staff Writer
It came to be known as his "Four Freedoms Speech."
On Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a state of the union address that highlighted the four freedoms of healthy democracy - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
It was an impassioned plea to help Great Britain in its war with Nazi Germany and ramp up war-related industries here at home. By the end of the year, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States had entered World War II.
Today, we profile four Mainers who embody the Four Freedoms and remind us not to take them for granted as we celebrate our nation's independence.
It took seven drafts for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers to get it just right.
"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."
Freedom of speech
It's still one of the worst things anyone has ever said to her. Emma Pope-Welch was a 12-year-old middle school student in New Hampshire when classmates started bullying her. She had defended another kid who was being taunted with anti-gay slurs. Her goodwill prompted similar attacks on her awkward, unformed sexuality. By the end of the school day, it seemed everyone knew Emma Pope-Welch was gay. Days and weeks passed. The abuse escalated.
"I was told that I deserved to die," Pope-Welch recalled. "A student screamed it at me in the hallway. It was between classes and teachers were standing in doorways, but nobody did anything. Everyone was just frozen."
Growing up the oldest of eight kids on Munjoy Hill, David Paul knows something about prejudice and the power of faith to overcome it. He learned to hold his own and made friends among the black, Italian and Jewish families that populated Portland's working-class, waterfront neighborhood in the 1940s and 1950s. Through it all, the chapel at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was a refuge.
"We were poor Irish Catholics, so we took the brunt of it, and when my father left, we took a little more," said Paul, 67. "Whenever I had a problem, I'd go to the chapel and I'd work out a solution."
Freedom from want
Yarmouth is one of Maine's more affluent coastal communities, with tree-lined streets, historic homes and well-funded public services. So, you might be surprised to learn that the local food pantry serves about 50 families a month, from babies to seniors citizens. Sometimes, demand is so great, the pantry runs out of pasta, canned tuna and peanut butter.
That's when pantry volunteers send out an email and Deb Hopkins puts a hand-drawn "FOOD DRIVE" sign in the window of her hair salon on Main Street. Soon, a mound of donations begins to grow as Snip & Clip customers and other townspeople drop off canned goods and other necessities.
Georges Budagu came to the United States in 2002 to attend an international conference on conflict resolution at Georgetown University, and he couldn't leave. Grinding unrest had flared once again between Hutus and Tutsis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the central African nation where Budagu grew up, and Rwanda, the small neighboring country where he attended university.
Afraid to go home, Budagu applied for political asylum, settled with fellow Benyamulenge Tutsis living in Portland, and freed himself from more than a decade of prejudice, persecution and constant fear for his life.