Born to Presbyterian parents, Woodrow Wilson was brought up to be
pious and academic. Educated at the Princeton University for three years, he
went on to join the Law University of Virginia. After graduation he practiced
law for sometime but it was half-hearted, at best. He also studied at John
Hopkins University from where he received his doctorate.
As President of the Princeton University, he advocated reforms in
the education system and attempted to modernize the college. He was a successful
lecturer and scholar.
“It is not men that interest or disturb me primarily; it is
ideas. Ideas live; men die.” But, Wilson was a thinker who would rather
act and so, when impressed by his track record at Princeton, New Jersey
Democrats approached him to run as governor he accepted their proposal but made
it clear that their support should come with “no strings attached”.
He became the Governor of the State of New Jersey (1911-1913) and thenceforth
his rise in national politics was stupendous. As Governor, he had a
distinguished career initiating reforms.
Upon being elected President of the United States, he started
putting into practice the reforms which he had outlined in his book, “The
New freedom”. This was a highly ambitious and progressive outlook. It
advocated lowering of the tariff, reforming the banking system, taking to task
unscrupulous corporations and reviving economic competition. He established the
Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission which perhaps, was his most
singular achievement. The framework of the nation’s financial agenda
including banks, credits and supply of finance rests on these ideals. He gave
his full support to unions so that working Americans would not be denied fair
His foreign policy aimed at overturning the imperialist tendencies
of previous governments but, he himself could get deal a heavy hand at times.
During his tenure as President, America intervened militarily in Latin America
more than previous times.
During World War1, Wilson was determined to remain neutral but was
soon drawn into the vortex of war rather unwillingly. But, once the United
States decided to go to war, Wilson laid aside his domestic agenda and left no
stones unturned to mobilize a nation and its resources, be it manpower,
agriculture, commerce or industry. In fact, his speech to the Congress in
January 1918 on the “Fourteen points” was a masterstroke in that it
convinced people of his vision of a better world and helped in winning the
He was the second President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
for his tireless efforts at bringing about world peace and trying to establish a
League of Nations. But, he failed when he tried to get the Senate to ratify
American acceptance of the League of Nations. Despite this, he unflinchingly
held on to his belief that Americans would one day embrace his vision of the
world community being led by America and twenty-five years later, the United
Nation built its headquarters in New York.
Wilson was re-elected for a second term by playing on the
slogan, “He kept us out of war”. The farmers and laborers also
supported him whole-heartedly impressed by his initiatives at bringing about
Described as America’s most visionary President, Wilson was
also one of its greatest reformers. The majority of historians consider him to
be amongst the five most important Presidents of the United States whose legacy
left the nation strong and powerful. Wilson, much like Roosevelt, succeeded in
making the White House the center of power in Washington. He was a strong
propagator of expanding the influence and power of the federal government
without which, he believed that the economy could not function and he was an
equally strong upholder of people’s rights and fiercely protective about