Was Woodrow Wilson Right?
IT IS fifty years, since Woodrow Wilson died, but it does not seem fifty years: more like two-hundred-fifty. We are uncomfortable with Wilson in the 20th century, he seems more the kind of man who came early rather than late in our national life when of a sudden we were to find that far from being the youngest of governments we had become virtually the oldest. Yet none would disagree that he shaped this century as no other American has done. Herbert Hoover in his last book, The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson (they were very alike, Wilson and Hoover, though Hoover was the more prolific author), put it fairly:
For a moment at the time of the Armistice, Mr. Wilson rose to intellectual domination of most of the civilized world. With his courage and eloquence, he carried a message of hope for the independence of nations, the freedom of men and lasting peace. Never since his time has any man risen to the political and spiritual heights that came to him.
There was no one like him, then; there have been none since. Except perhaps Lenin. That case could be made. Men alike primarily in the way they differed from their own people whom they were nonetheless able to inspire and to mobilize as no leaders before or since have done. But as an American figure, he is singular.
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