Woodrow Wilson Quotes

The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.

19th November, 1905. Inter-Church Conference on Federation, New York.

The wisest thing to do with a fool is to encourage him to hire a hall and discourse to his fellow-citizens. Nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.

Constitutional Government in the United States, Chapter 2.

The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.

Constitutional Government in the United States, Chapter 3.

If it is reorganisation, a new deal, and a change you are seeking, it is Hobson’s choice. I am sorry for you, but it is really vote for me or not vote at all.

24th October, 1910. Camden, New Jersey.

A presidential campaign may easily degenerate into a mere personal contest and so lose its real dignity and significance. There is no indispensable man.

7th August, 1912. Accepting the Democratic nomination for President.

When I resist, therefore, when I as a Democrat resist the concentration of power, I am resisting the processes of death, because the concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human initiative, and, therefore of human energy.

4th September, 1912. New York Speech.

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.

9th September 1912, speech to New York Press Club.

And there will be no greater burden in our generation than to organise the forces of liberty in our time, in order to make conquest of a new freedom for America.

3rd October, 1912. Campaign speech in Indianapolis, Indiana.

We shall not, I believe, be obliged to alter our policy of watchful waiting. And then, when the end comes, we shall hope to see constitutional order restored in distressed Mexico by the concert and energy of such of her leaders as prefer the liberty of their people to their own ambitions.

2nd December, 1913. State of the Union Address.

The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name. … We must be impartial in thought as well as in action.

19th August, 1914. Message to the Senate.

You deal in the raw material of opinion, and, if may convictions have any validity, opinion ultimately governs the world.

20th April, 1915. Address to the Associated Press.

No nation is fit to sit in judgement upon any other nation.

20th April, 1915. New York.

Our whole duty, for the present, at any rate, is summed up in the motto, ‘‘America first.’’

20th April, 1915. New York.

There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight; there is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.

10th May, 1915. Address to Foreign-Born Citizens, Philadelphia.

[The Civil War] created in this country what had never existed before – a national consciousness. It was not the salvation of the Union; it was the rebirth of the Union.

Memorial Day Address, 1915.

We have stoof apart, studiously neutral.

7th December, 1915. Message to Congress.

One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat.

29th January, 1916. Pittsburgh speech.

America cannot be an ostrich with its head in the sand.

1st February, 1916. Speech at Des Moines.

Never . . . murder a man who is committing suicide.

19th August, 1916. Letter to Bernard Baruch.

It must be a peace without victory. … Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common belief.

22nd January, 1917. Address to the Senate.

A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.

4th March, 1917. Statement in reference to certain members of the Senate.

Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best.

2nd April, 1917. Address to Congress requesting a declaration of war.

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.

2nd April, 1917. Address to Congress requesting a declaration of war.

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilisation itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts. . . . To such a task we dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of
those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.

2nd April, 1917. Address to Congress.

The program of the world’s peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible program, as we see it, is this:
1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private understandings
of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.
4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

8th January, 1918. Address to Congress / Fourteen Points.

14. A general association of nations must be formed … for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

8th January, 1918. Address to Congress / Fourteen Points.

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American.America, my fellow citizens—I do not say it in disaparagement of any other great people—America is the only idealistic Nation in the world.

8th September 1919. Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.

Quoted in Josephus Daniels, The Wilson Era: Years of War and After (1946)

It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.

18th February, 1915. Attributed. Upon seeing the movie The Birth of a Nation, at the White House by D.W. Griffith.

Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.

‘Mr Wilson’s War’ (1917) by John Dos Passos. Part 3, Chapter 12.