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Perspective: What does freedom mean...to you?

Portion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in Washington, D.C.
Portion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in Washington, D.C.

What does freedom mean to you? It’s a question loaded with all kinds of emotions we get from politicians, commentators and people who are deeply, genuinely concerned about rights and responsibilities in a democracy. Like veterans. And parents.

Quick answers are easy: The right to bear arms. The right to control our own bodies. The right to vote. The freedom to participate fully in community life, regardless of our race or gender. Our legal status. Our ability to act within the range of socially and legally accepted behaviors.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt got it pretty close in a speech in the 1940s, when he talked about Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. But his speech didn’t quite have the impact he wanted until illustrator Norman Rockwell got the picture. Rockwell’s posters were mailed to libraries across the country during World War II.

The Princeton Public Library has one, along with dozens of Rockwell’s covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

Here’s the twist for today. Starting May 7, the Princeton Public Library will host an exhibit by artist Maggie Meiners, whose “Rediscovering Rockwell” photographs depict The Four Freedoms and Beyond. These days, “We the people” are quite different from the folks Rockwell depicted. The pace of life is faster and everybody wants a voice, including people who have felt left out for generations.

Maggie Meiners pictures are thought-provokers to help us consider carefully, honestly -- and dare we say, lovingly -- how we protect those freedoms and the “beyond” part that’s much more complicated.

I’m Rick Brooks and that’s my perspective. Visit fourfreedomsandbeyond.com and tell me what you think. What does freedom mean to you?

Rick Brooks retired after 26 years as an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Co-founder of the Little Free Library movement, Rick now lives in Princeton, Illinois and runs Midwest Partners, a civic engagement group.