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

"Tell me what is right and I will fight for it."

"That a peasant may become king does not render the kingdom democratic."

"The Americans who went to Europe to die are a unique breed.... (They) crossed the seas to a foreign land to fight for a cause which they did not pretend was peculiarly their own, which they knew was the cause of humanity and mankind. These Americans gave the greatest of all gifts, the gift of life and the gift of spirit."

"The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation."

"The basis of neutrality is sympathy for mankind."

"The awakening of the people of China to the possibilities under free government is the most significant, if not the most momentous, event of our generation."

"The Constitution of the United States is not a mere lawyers' document: it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit is always the spirit of the age"

"The chief instrumentality by which the law of the Constitution has been extended to cover the facts of national development has of course been judicial interpretation, – the decisions of the courts. The process of formal amendment of the Constitution was made so difficult by provisions of the Constitution itself that it has seldom been feasible to use it; and the difficulty of formal amendment has undoubtedly made the courts more liberal, not to say lax, in their interpretation than they would otherwise have been. The whole business of adaptation has been theirs, and they have undertaken it with open minds, sometimes even with boldness and a touch of audacity..."

"The business of government is to organize the common interest against the special interests."

"The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

"The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people."

"The flag is the embodiment, not of sentiment, but of history. It represents the experiences made by men and women, the experiences of those who do and live under that flag."

"The example of America must be the example not merely of peace because it will not fight, but of peace because peace is the healing and elevating influence of the world, and strife is not. 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."

"The dominating danger in this land is not the existence of great individual combinations, — that is dangerous enough in all conscience, — but the combination of the combinations, — of the railways, the manufacturing enterprises, the great mining projects, the great enterprises for the development of the natural water-powers of the country, threaded together in the personnel of a series of boards of directors into a "community of interest" more formidable than any conceivable single combination that dare appear in the open."

"The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy."

"The great voice of America does not come from the seats of learning, but in a murmur from the hills and the woods and the farms and the factories and the mills, rolling on and gaining volume until it comes to us the voice from the homes of the common men. Do these murmurs come into the corridors of the university? I have not heard them."

"The great malady of public life is cowardice. Most men are not untrue, but they are afraid. Most of the errors of public life, if my observation is to be trusted, come not because men are morally bad, but because they are afraid of somebody. God knows why they should be: it is generally shadows they are afraid of."

"The interesting and inspiring thing about America is that she asks nothing for herself except what she has a right to ask for humanity itself."

"The highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people."

"The line of red are lines of blood, nobly and unselfishly shed by men who loved the liberty of their fellowmen more than they loved their fellowmen more than they lover their own lives and fortunes. God forbid that we would have to use the blood of America to freshen the color of the flag. But if it should ever be necessary, that flag will be colored once more, and in being colored will be glorified and purified."

"The men who act stand nearer to the mass of man than the men who write; and it is in their hands that new thought gets its translation into the crude language of deeds."

"The method of political science is the interpretation of life; its instrument is insight, a nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions."

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

"The nation's honor is dearer than the nation's comfort; yes, than the nation's life itself."

"The old theory of the sovereignty of the States, which used so to engage our passions, has lost its vitality. The war between the States established at least this principle, that the federal government is, through its courts, the final judge of its own powers... We are impatient of state legislatures because they seem to us less representative of the thoughtful opinion of the country than Congress is. We know that our legislatures do not think alike, but we are not sure that our people do not think alike..."

"The Nation has been deeply stirred, stirred by a solemn passion, stirred by the knowledge of wrong, of ideals lost, of government too often debauched and made an instrument of evil. The feelings with which we face this new age of right and opportunity sweep across our heartstrings like some air out of God's own presence, where justice and mercy are reconciled and the judge and the brother are one. We know our task to be no mere task of politics but a task which shall search us through and through, whether we be able to understand our time and the need of our people, whether we be indeed their spokesmen and interpreters, whether we have the pure heart to comprehend and the rectified will to choose our high course of action. This is not a day of triumph; it is a day of dedication. Here muster, not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity. Men's hearts wait upon us; men's lives hang in the balance; men's hopes call upon us to say what we will do. Who shall live up to the great trust? Who dares fail to try? I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking men, to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them, if they will but counsel and sustain me!"

"The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them."

"The only way your powers can become great is by exerting them outside the circle of your own narrow, special, selfish interests… how he can lift his brother, how he can assist his friend, how he can enlighten mankind, how he can make virtue the rule of conduct in the circle in which he lives."

"The object of education is not merely to draw out the powers of the individual mind: it is rather its right object to draw all minds to a proper adjustment to the physical and social world in which they are to have their life and their development: to enlighten, strengthen and make fit."

"The only reason I read a book is because I cannot see and converse with the man who wrote it."

"The person who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it."

"The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible. By the time a man has grown old enough to have a son in college he has specialized. The university should generalize the treatment of its undergraduates, should struggle to put them in touch with every force of life."

"The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution, – it will be from no lack of constitutional powers on its part, but only because the President has the nation behind him, and the Congress has not."

"The question of armaments, whether on land or sea, is the most immediately and intensely practical question connected with the future fortunes of nations and of mankind."

"The question upon which the whole future peace and policy of the world depends is this: Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace, or only for a new balance of power? If it be only a struggle for a new balance of power, who will guarantee, who can guarantee, the stable equilibrium of the new arrangement? Only a tranquil Europe can be a stable Europe. There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace."

"The seed of revolution is repression."

"The Senate of the United States has been both extravagantly praised and unreasonably disparaged, according to the predisposition and temper of its various critics... The truth is, in this case as in so many others, something quite commonplace and practical. The Senate is just what the mode of its election and the conditions of public life in this country make it."

"The things that the flag stands for were created by the experiences of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives. The flag is the embodiment not of sentiment, but of history."

"The success of a party means little more than that the Nation is using the party for a large and definite purpose. It seeks to use and interpret a change in its own plans and point of view."

"The supreme test of the nation has come. We must all speak, act, and serve together!"

"The truth is we are all caught in a great economic system which is heartless."

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

"The way to stop financial "joy-riding" is to arrest the chauffeur, not the automobile."

"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 air."

"The world is not looking for servants, there are plenty of these, but for masters, men who form their purposes and then carry them out, let the consequences be what they may."

"The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them."

"There are two beings who assess character instantly by looking into the eyes,—dogs and children. If a dog not naturally possessed of the devil will not come to you after he has looked you in the face, you ought to go home and examine your conscience; and if a little child, from any other reason than mere timidity, looks you in the face, and then draws back and will not come to your knee, go home and look deeper yet into your conscience."

"There are blessed intervals when I forget by one means or another that I am President of the United States."

"There can be no equality or opportunity if men and women and children be not shielded in their lives from the consequences of great industrial and social processes which they cannot alter, control, or singly cope with."

"There is a very great thrill to be had from the memories of the American Revolution, but the American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation, and the duty laid upon us by that beginning is the duty of bringing the things then begun to a noble triumph of completion."