Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Support for Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of September 9, 2009, the population of this country is 301,198,307. On this date the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, will give a prime time speech on health care in front of a joint session of Congress. Of 301,198,307 citizens I am among those who will be watching and who back him to the very end.

I wondered if there was an old postcard in my grandmother Nellie's stash, or one in the small envelope saved by my grandmother Lydia that might be appropriate for the occasion of the second, and most important, Obama speech this week. Lydia came through for me this time, with this old postcard of President Woodrow Wilson. The postmark is 1918 and the message to her is written in Finnish, although it was mailed from Minnesota, so it was from a fellow Finn, undoubtedly also an immigrant. Who knows whether the sender or Lydia were U.S. citizens at the time, and therefore among the "one hundred million Americans" counted on the card. I know that Lydia became a citizen but I don't have the date. But the mere selection of this postcard, friend-to-friend or relative-to-relative, indicates a charged spirit of absolute goodwill toward the 28th President.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia, which is a 2-1/2 hour drive from Arlington, Virginia, where Barack Obama gave his first, and most unnecessarily controversial, speech this week at Wakefield High School.

Below is the text of Woodrow Wilson's bio at White

Like Roosevelt before him, Woodrow Wilson regarded himself as the personal representative of the people. "No one but the President," he said, "seems to be expected ... to look out for the general interests of the country." He developed a program of progressive reform and asserted international leadership in building a new world order. In 1917 he proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy."

Wilson had seen the frightfulness of war. He was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina.

After graduation from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) and the University of Virginia Law School, Wilson earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and entered upon an academic career. In 1885 he married Ellen Louise Axson.

Wilson advanced rapidly as a conservative young professor of political science and became president of Princeton in 1902.

His growing national reputation led some conservative Democrats to consider him Presidential timber. First they persuaded him to run for Governor of New Jersey in 1910. In the campaign he asserted his independence of the conservatives and of the machine that had nominated him, endorsing a progressive platform, which he pursued as governor.

He was nominated for President at the 1912 Democratic Convention and campaigned on a program called the New Freedom, which stressed individualism and states' rights. In the three-way election he received only 42 percent of the popular vote but an overwhelming electoral vote.

Wilson maneuvered through Congress three major pieces of legislation. The first was a lower tariff, the Underwood Act; attached to the measure was a graduated Federal income tax. The passage of the Federal Reserve Act provided the Nation with the more elastic money supply it badly needed. In 1914 antitrust legislation established a Federal Trade Commission to prohibit unfair business practices.

Another burst of legislation followed in 1916. One new law prohibited child labor; another limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day. By virtue of this legislation and the slogan "he kept us out of war," Wilson narrowly won re-election.

But after the election Wilson concluded that America could not remain neutral in the World War. On April 2,1917, he asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.

Massive American effort slowly tipped the balance in favor of the Allies. Wilson went before Congress in January 1918, to enunciate American war aims--the Fourteen Points, the last of which would establish "A general association of nations...affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike."

After the Germans signed the Armistice in November 1918, Wilson went to Paris to try to build an enduring peace. He later presented to the Senate the Versailles Treaty, containing the Covenant of the League of Nations, and asked, "Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?"

But the election of 1918 had shifted the balance in Congress to the Republicans. By seven votes the Versailles Treaty failed in the Senate.

The President, against the warnings of his doctors, had made a national tour to mobilize public sentiment for the treaty. Exhausted, he suffered a stroke and nearly died. Tenderly nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, he lived until 1924.

President Woodrow Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919.



Kim said...

Great postcard! And everso timely. I'm also one of the Americans that supports health care reform...NOW! I'm hearing that he's going to support a public option tonight and I couldn't be happier. (Well, I could be if he'd just get on the universal health care bandwagon, but I doubt that'll happen.)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

There's a quiz here now called "Pointless" - they ask 100 people a question and then the contestants have to try and think of an answer that none of the 100 came up with (therefore scoring a low score - the lowest score stays in)

I mention this because they asked 100 people to name as many 20th Century US presidents as they could - most said Clinton or the two Bushes and the trick was to find one that no one had thought of.

Sadly my own (home based) guess of Chester A Arthur proved to be pre-20th century - but i wonder how many of us brits would have remembered Wilson as 20th century?

PS - Jimmy Carter was a low scorer. Shame really, because he was in charge when i visited the US :)

PPS: am so glad to see Obama coming in and not afraid to kick ass for something he believes in - such a refreshing change from a politician!

Looking to the Stars said...

I love the postcard and loved reading about President Wilson. My Uncle was a senator during this time. i thought about going thru some of my Uncles letters to see if there was anything about Wilson and share it with you but decided that's silly.

Good post, thanks for sharing

Lydia said...

@Kim- Well, it was a good speech. Wonder what's next. It's great that you are so well-informed on the topic and I hope you're in touch with your representative, etc. :)

@Pixies- That's the kind of quiz that actually tells a lot about people. My first response that popped into my head was Eisenhower, most likely because he was the first president I was ever aware of. Interesting you were here in the U.S. as I didn't know you'd visited. One on my blogroll has a current post about Carter that makes me a bit uneasy....he certainly has his detractors.

@Looking to the Stars- Ooh, that is really interesting about your uncle. I can't keep all that family of yours straight in my mind; what was his name? It might be fun if you found something about Wilson among his letters/papers and posted about it. Feel free to link to this post if you write something.

dmarks said...

I remember reading that Wilson had a lot to do with forcing together Yugoslavia. I wonder how much of that is true. If so, in retrospect, so much of this was mistaken. Especially when Kosovo was attached to Serbia against its will.

Lydia said...

@dmarks- The depth of my knowledge surrounding that time needs improving, and I'm not familiar with Wilson's impact on Yugoslavia. Because of your final sentence, however, I feel compelled to read up on this. Thank you.



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