|What makes a good citizen?|
The qualities displayed by good citizens—obeying laws, staying informed, voting responsibly, participating in the improvement of community and country, treating others with respect, and finding ways to cooperate and reach compromises when necessary—are all best instilled at a young age. In this unit children will learn about the importance of having rules and responsibilities in their home, classroom, school, and community at large.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Good Citizens
Evidence of the work involved in being a good citizen is all around us.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech painting
Four Freedoms. Speech.
In his State of the Union address of 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described four basic freedoms to which he believed all people were entitled. These are: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It was to protect these freedoms, Roosevelt said, that the United States must enter World War II on the side of the Allies. Inspired by the speech, American artist Norman Rockwell decided to illustrate these freedoms in a series of paintings. The result was his famous Four Freedoms series. While thinking about how to illustrate “freedom of speech,” he attended a local town meeting in his community of Arlington, Vermont. There he saw one of the town’s citizens, Jim Edgerton, stand up and voice an unpopular opinion. Instead of getting angry or upset, his neighbors honored Mr. Edgerton’s right to have his say. Rockwell used this incident as the basis of his painting Freedom of Speech.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
How Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Helped Our Country During World War II
The Saturday Evening Post published Freedom of Speech along with Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom of Religion as cover art in February and March of 1943. Then, in April, the series became the centerpiece of the government’s sale of war bonds. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Saturday Evening Post co-sponsored a 17-month, 16-city tour of the paintings. At each stop the public bought bonds that helped pay for our country’s participation in World War II. Most of the bonds were bought in the smallest available denomination of $25.00. Yet, in seventeen months the tour raised over $132 million. Later, the Office of War Information and the Post printed four million posters of the paintings that ended up in public buildings throughout the United States.
Drawing a Picture of Good Citizenship
1. Distribute a copy of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech painting to each child. (This can also be found on page 8 of your Primary Sources Handbook.) Explain to the children that Norman Rockwell painted this picture after seeing someone stand up and voice an unpopular opinion at a meeting.
2. Encourage the children to share what they notice about the painting. If necessary, prompt the children with questions like these:
2. Widen the discussion by asking the children to suggest situations in their own lives when they have disagreed with other people. If you like, use a conflict that took place in the classroom or out on the playground as an example. (You might also have the children flip through Unit 2 of their textbook to find other examples.) Encourage the children to describe how those involved handled these situations and what else, as good citizens, they might have done.
3. As you distribute art supplies (crayons, markers, and drawing paper), invite the children to think of a conflict that they have had with another person. (If they like, the children can select a situation used in the class discussion above.)
4. Using the art supplies, direct the children to draw
a picture showing a positive way to respond to the conflict they have
selected. When they are ready, have the children share their illustrations
with the class, explaining what each of their drawings show.
Additional Primary Sources
Image credits: a. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USW33-023856-C DLC; b. Manay