10/19/2012 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

We're Only Halfway Toward Real Freedom

Wednesday, my wife Barbara and I had the privilege to attend the inauguration of the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City. It's an island we're able to see from our East Side apartment window, which looks out over the East River toward Queens and Brooklyn. The island has been there for many years, a part of our daily view, but only recently has this wonderful memorial been constructed and dedicated -- and it's inspiring to know it's there.

It's a remarkable tribute to the power and benevolence of the ideals at the basis of free society. The park commemorates a crucial moment in Roosevelt's presidency, as we were emerging from the Great Depression and heading into war. Addressing Congress, on Jan. 6, 1941, the 32nd president of the United States gave voice to four pillars of a free and enlightened society, and these freedoms are quintessentially American: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

These principles remain, today, as fundamental as they were on the eve of World War II. It was a time of war, a time of anxiety and uncertainty. The forces of evil were on the rise. The future of the free world stood in the balance. Today, we confront a different set of challenges, yet these four freedoms remain just as crucial to our present and our future. Our future will again depend on the actions, courage and wisdom of the American people, as well as like-minded souls from around the world. The future of our children and their children will be made possible by our collective actions, inspired by the values we choose to hold dear.

On a brilliant, bright sunny day in New York City, in the shadow of the United Nations building that Roosevelt worked so hard to create, I was moved by FDR's four freedoms. Four values which set good apart from evil. Four pillars that help set America on a course to a better nation and to a better world. For much of my childhood in Romania, when our country was in the grip of Russian domination, my family enjoyed none of these freedoms, so my adulthood in America has given me an especially poignant love of what Roosevelt was extolling. May we always be reminded and inspired by these principles. In his own words:

First is freedom of speech and expression. Everywhere in the world. Second, is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, everywhere in the world. Third, is freedom from want, which translated into world terms means economic understandings, which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life to its inhabitants, everywhere in the world. Fourth, is freedom from fear, which translated into world terms means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world.

We have such a long way to go to achieve what he envisioned. We aren't even able to secure the last two of them for everyone in our own nation, let alone around the world. But in a little more than two centuries, we've made enormous progress in building a working social order around these ideals, even if we haven't entirely fulfilled them. Keeping them steadily in view is the crucial first step in making them a reality: and Four Freedoms Park does just that. I see it and smile every time I gaze out of my apartment window now.