President Wilson (Wise)

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President Wilson
by Stephen Samuel Wise
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Less than a year ago the moral leadership of the world was in our grasp. We had entered upon the great adventure to save the world, to make and to keep it free, to rebuild an order of life that should be just and righteous altogether. At the critical hour we rendered decisive help, taking our place by the side of England, France, and Italy as deliverers of the world from the horrors of Prussianism. The service was rendered, the sacrifices were made, and for generations we shall pay the tolls.

But for moral leadership of mankind which we have abdicated for a time, we would and we shall reclaim. It shall not be brought to pass but all of these services and sacrifices are to be forgotten by Europe and that nothing will be remembered of America, save but at the last moment we shrank from an imperative duty which it was the part of courage and nobleness to accept. As Americans, we have the right to demand that the presidential election of next November be forgotten for a moment, and the world's need of peace and healing be remembered for more than a moment.

But world justice be not sacrificed in the interest of partisan advantage. Our appeal is to America at its highest. The America of Washington and Lincoln, of Roosevelt and Wilson -- the America of Lexington and Gettysburg and Château-Thierry --- the America of noblest vision and faith and great illusion. If the League of Nations be not helped by America to come to pass, it is not President Wilson who will have been defeated, but America -- not America, but the world -- not mankind alone, but mankind's hope of peace and justice.

The achievements of the President, his great services, the unequalled clarity and power with which he molded and applied the ideals of America -- all these things many of my fellow Americans for a time seem, alas, to forget. The real difficulty of the situation has been that the President thinks straight, that he is an honest man, that he does not resort to political subterfuge, that he will not indulge in political equivocation, and the President is blamed on these grounds. When in truth it is because of these things that he ought to be held up to the youth of the nation for honor, and above all for the honor of emulation.

The President is not unerring, but his place in history is secure. He has done great things and will stand as one of the mightiest figures of a mighty epoch. It is not needful or possible at this time, whilst yet he lives, to say that Wilson is a Washington or another Lincoln, but he is a great American. He is one of the great presidents of American history. Let us remember that it is not only of the dead that it may be said in the word of [Drinkwater], but of the living: When the high harp we magnify, and the sure visions celebrate, and worship greatness passing by, ourselves are great.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1959, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.