61st Anniversary – FDR’s Second Bill of Rights

“the right of every family to a decent home”
by Jeff Foreman, Policy Director at Care for the Homeless

Sunday, January 11, marked the 61st anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s renowned
“Second Bill of Rights” Speech, still remembered and celebrated by social justice advocates and those who work for better policies to fight poverty and homelessness.

It’s interesting to recognize that FDR made his famous rights commitment not during the Depression, but at the height of the Second World War. In his State of the Union address that year the President argued it was time to commit to a new set of standards, a “second bill of rights,” that he referred to as an eight point “economic bill of rights”.

Roosevelt included in his plan to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness an enumerated “right of every family to a decent home.” He also included “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health” as well as rights like adequate food and clothing, employment and education.

Roosevelt spoke to a nation that had dramatically recovered economically from the Depression. He told us despite a higher standard of living we can’t be content “…no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people – whether it be one-third, or one-fifth or one-tenth – is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”

Those rights remind us at Care for the Homeless of our own mission to provide health care, services and shelter to New York City’s most vulnerable and our commitment to prevent, fight and end homelessness.

Photo by Nancy Ribeck

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