January 7, 2024 Essay: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident…”: St. Ignatius Loyola Lecture Series for 2024

Jan 5, 2024

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his eighth State of the Union address, now known as the Four Freedoms speech. His words came at a time of extreme American isolationism and curbs on immigration quotas. In the historic speech, Roosevelt announced his vision for the world, “a world attainable in our own time and generation,” and founded upon four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These freedoms, Roosevelt declared, must triumph everywhere in the world, and act as a basis of a new moral order. “Freedom,” Roosevelt declared, “means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.”

The St. Ignatius Loyola Lecture Series for 2024 will be dedicated to the four freedoms enunciated by President Roosevelt. I am pleased to present the program, which consists of five lectures to be given monthly from January to May.

The inaugural lecture, on Wednesday, January 31st, will be given by Professor Basil Smikle, Jr., Ph.D., of Hunter College. He is Director of the Roosevelt House Institute for Public Policy at Hunter and Member of the FDR Library Board of Trustees. The lecture will present the historical context of the Four Freedoms Speech, the formulation of Roosevelt’s vision, and its impact on the post-war world and its relevance today. The title of the lecture is, “Mobilizing ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Secure Our Freedoms.” With over 15 years in higher education and 25 years of a career dedicated to public service, Basil regularly shares insights on electoral politics, governance, and public policy on national media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg TV. He holds a PhD in Politics and Education and an MPA from Columbia University and received a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University.

The second lecture will be given by President Tania Tetlow of Fordham University. The title is “Free Speech and Civility on College Campuses.” The date is Wednesday, February 14th. The discussion will concern the realities of engaging civil discourse and free speech on college campuses. Tetlow, a renowned legal scholar and former federal prosecutor before her career in higher education, will share how she navigates this terrain via theory and real-life examples. She has served as president of Fordham University since July 1, 2022. Previously, she was president of Loyola University New Orleans. She is the first woman and the first layperson to hold each of those positions at those two Catholic universities.

The third lecture, on Freedom of Worship, will be announced in a separate essay.

The fourth lecture, on Freedom from Want, will be given by New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Anne Williams-Isom. The lecture will take place on Monday, April 8th. With the title, “Fulfilling America’s Promise: Delivering on FDR’s Vision of Freedom from Want,” Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom will discuss the foundations, challenges, opportunities, and lessons for leaders as America works to deliver on FDR’s “Freedom from Want.” This Freedom is defined in modern terms as freedom related to economic security and other basic needs to thrive in society.  Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom will delve into areas including: poverty, equity issues, the ongoing asylum humanitarian crisis, and how we, as leaders of faith, can advance the wellbeing of New Yorkers and the people we serve. A graduate of Fordham University and Columbia Law School, she was Chief Operating Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

The concluding lecture, on Freedom from Fear, will be presented in a separate essay.

All lectures will begin at 7:00 pm in Wallace Hall and will be followed by time for questions and light refreshments.

 —Rev. Michael P. Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor