It was such a beautiful and exciting idea: to open up the Four Freedom Awards to the general public. Many of you might know that last week, on the 14th of April, the Roosevelt Foundation and the Vrijheidscolleges planned to hold a Public Meet-Up where students and other interested parties could join and learn from this year’s Four Freedoms laureates. We were particularly excited to see that so many UCR students signed up for the event. Sadly, after the Coronavirus hit the globe, both the official ceremony and the Public Meet-Up were postponed to April 2021.
While this was of course very disappointing to all those involved in the organisation of these events, something beautiful yet sprang up from the creativity of both our Professor and the students in UCR’s Constitutional Law class. Not content with being unable to spread the message of the Four Freedoms in a time where they are more relevant than ever, the class (together with great support from Professor Barbara Oomen) set up an extensive system to deliver digital classes about the Four Freedoms to primary and secondary schools in Zeeland, in a very short amount of time. If they could not come to us, we would come to them!
As we prepared to give our digital lectures, we received the amazing news that there was an overwhelming interest in classes on the Four Freedoms by schools all over Zeeland. Among other things, this really gave the entire initiative a boost and within a week several provincial ministers including the King’s Commissioner in Zeeland, as well as members of the Roosevelt Foundation, had signed up to teach alongside the students. Everything was put in place in record time to make a success out of this fantastic initiative.
And what a success it was! We were able to give digital guest lectures to over twenty classes across Zeeland, ranging from primary school all the way to higher education institutions. The pupils were very engaged, and many stated that they enjoyed learning more about the Four Freedoms, the Roosevelts, and their specific connection to Zeeland. The school teachers themselves were also very positive about the project, and there was even a demand to host more Four Freedoms lectures after we finished. This was sadly beyond our capacity, but many of the students and other teachers indicated that they would love to do this again in the future.
While this was a project initially born out of necessity, the overwhelming positive feedback we received and the joy that the students and other teachers experienced in providing the classes has convinced me that this is an initiative worth pursuing into the future. I believe that when the day comes that we can once again go to a physical Four Freedoms Meet-Up, these guest lectures should and will be a part of the overall Four Freedoms celebrations. Finally, I think I would be remiss not to mention the extremely quick and concerted efforts of both Professor Oomen and the Roosevelt Foundation in creating and participating in these lectures. If nothing else, this exercise in teaching has shown that UCR bears a spirit of adaptability and resilience, even in these trying times.