Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Woodrow Wilson, fully Thomas Woodrow Wilson

American Politician, President of the United States, Governor of New Jersey, President of Princeton University

"It is not an army that we must train for war; it is a nation."

"Just what is it that America stands for? If she stands for one thing more than another, it is for the sovereignty of self-governing people, and her example, her assistance, her encouragement, has thrilled two continents in this western world with all those fine impulses which have built up human liberty on sides of the water. She stands, therefore, as an example of independence, as an example of free institutions, and as an example of disinterested international action in the main tenets of justice."

"It is the object of learning, not only to satisfy the curiosity and perfect the spirits of ordinary men, but also to advance civilization."

"Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

"Liberty is its own reward."

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

"Let me say again that I am not impugning the motives of the men in Wall Street. They may think that that is the best way to create prosperity for the country. When you have got the market in your hand, does honesty oblige you to turn the palm upside down and empty it? If you have got the market in your hand and believe that you understand the interest of the country better than anybody else, is it patriotic to let it go? I can imagine them using this argument to themselves."

"Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions; with their individuality and independence of choice in matters of business they have lost all their individual choice within the field of morals."

"My constant embarrassment is to restrain the emotions that are inside of me. You may not believe it, but I sometimes feel like the fire from a far from extinct volcano, and if the lava does not seem to spill over it is because you are not high enough to see into the basin and see the caldron boil."

"My dream of politics all my life has been that it is the common business, that it is something we owe to each other to understand and discuss with absolute frankness."

"My own ideals for the university are those of a genuine democracy and serious scholarship. These two, indeed, seem to go together."

"My fellow citizens, I believe in Divine Providence. If I did not I would go crazy."

"Neutrality is a negative word. It does not express what America ought to feel. We are not trying to keep out of trouble; we are trying to preserve the foundations on which peace may be rebuilt."

"Never attempt to murder a man who is committing suicide."

"No country can afford to have its prosperity originated by a small controlling class. The treasury of America lies in those ambitions, those energies, that cannot be restricted to a special favored class. It depends upon the inventions of unknown men, upon the originations of unknown men, upon the ambitions of unknown men. Every country is renewed out of the ranks of the unknown, not out of the ranks of those already famous and powerful and in control."

"No man ever saw the people of whom he forms a part. No man ever saw a government. I live in the midst of the Government of the United States, but I never saw the Government of the United States. Its personnel extends through all the nations, and across the seas, and into every corner of the world in the persons of the representatives of the United States in foreign"

"No man that does not see visions will ever realize any high hope or undertake any high enterprise"

"No man ever saw a government. I live in the midst of the Government of the United States, but I never saw the Government of the United States."

"No one who has read official documents needs to be told how easy it is to conceal the essential truth under the apparently candid and all- disclosing phrases of a voluminous and particularizing report."

"No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence."

"No student knows his subject: the most he knows is where and how to find out the things he does not know."

"Nothing is easier than to falsify the past. Lifeless instruction will do it. If you rob it of vitality, stiffen it with pedantry, sophisticate it with argument, chill it with unsympathetic comment, you render it as dead as any academic exercise. The safest way in all ordinary seasons is to let it speak for itself: resort to its records, listen to its poets and to its masters in the humbler art of prose. Your real and proper object, after all, is not to expound, but to realize it, consort with it, and make your spirit kin with it, so that you may never shake the sense of obligation off. In short, I believe that the catholic study of the world's literature as a record of spirit is the right preparation for leadership in the world's affairs, if you undertake it like a man and not like a pedant."

"No thoughtful man ever came to the end of his life, and had time and a little space of calm from which to look back upon it, who did not know and acknowledge that it was what he had done unselfishly and for others, and nothing else, that satisfied him in the retrospect, and made him feel that he had played the man."

"Nothing was ever done so systematically as nothing is being done now."

"Of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."

"Of course, when all is said, it is not learning but the spirit of service that will give a college place in the public annals of the nation."

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

"Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit."

"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat. At any rate, if it is heat it ought to be white heat and not sputter, because sputtering heat is apt to spread the fire. There ought, if there is any heat at all, to be that warmth of the heart which makes every man thrust aside his own personal feeling, his own personal interest, and take thought of the welfare and benefit of others."

"Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power, and to set up among the really free and self governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles."

"Politics I conceive to be nothing more than the science of the ordered progress of society along the lines of greatest usefulness and convenience to itself."

"Only free people can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end, and prefer the interest of mankind to any narrow interest of their own."

"Only peace between equals can last."

"Power consists in one's capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, to lead by reason and a gift of cooperation."

"Progressiveness means not standing still when everything else is moving."

"Property as compared with humanity, as compared with the red blood in the American people, must take second place, not first place."

"RADICAL—one who goes too far. CONSERVATIVE—one who does not go far enough. REACTIONARY—one who does not go at all."

"Princeton is no longer a thing for Princeton men to please themselves with. Princeton is a thing with which Princeton men must satisfy the country."

"Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen."

"So far as the colleges go, the sideshows are swallowing up the circus."

"Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down … Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused."

"So, our honest politicians and our honorable corporation heads owe it to their reputations to bring their activities out into the open."

"Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it. They know that America is not a place of which it can be said, as it used to be, that a man may choose his own calling and pursue it just as far as his abilities enable him to pursue it; because to-day, if he enters certain fields, there are organizations which will use means against him that will prevent his building up a business which they do not want to have built up; organizations that will see to it that the ground is cut from under him and the markets shut against him. For if he begins to sell to certain retail dealers, to any retail dealers, the monopoly will refuse to sell to those dealers, and those dealers, afraid, will not buy the new man's wares."

"Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it."

"Some Americans need hyphens in their names, because only part of them has come over; but when the whole man has come over, heart and thought and all, the hyphen drops of its own weight out of his name."

"Some men who are not real men love other things about themselves, but the real man believes that his honor is dearer than his life; and a nation is merely all of us put together, and the nation's honor is dearer than the nation's comfort and the nation's peace and the nation's life itself."

"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 disparagement of any other great people—America is the only idealistic Nation in the world. When I speak practical judgments about business affairs, I can only guess whether I am speaking the voice of America or not, but when I speak the ideal purposes of history I know that I am speaking the voice of America, because I have saturated myself since I was a boy in the records of that spirit, and everywhere in them there is this authentic tone of the love of justice and the service of humanity. If by any mysterious influence of error America should not take the leading part in this new enterprise of concerted power, the world would experience one of those reversals of sentiment, one of those penetrating chills of reaction, which would lead to a universal cynicism, for if America goes back upon mankind, mankind has no other place to turn. It is the hope of nations all over the world that America will do this great thing."

"Some people have a large circle of friends while others have only friends that they like."

"Statesmen have to bend to the collective will of their peoples or be broken"

"Surely a man has come to himself only when he has found the best that is in him, and has satisfied his heart with the highest achievement he is fit for."