tv Patricia O Toole The Moralist CSPAN June 17, 2018 10:01pm-11:15pm EDT
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>> good evening, ladies and gentlemen. [applause] thank you. the historian american hungarian john lucas who has spoken at the library a couple times in his youth in the 80s and now in his 90s said in an essay written in 1974 in the almost 50 year joint anniversaries of the deaths of lennon and wilson and i think they died within a month of each other in 1924 that it look like in the 1970s still that i might be the age of lennon and the 20th century and beyond may be known as the age of lennon. he protected
that it would be known as the age of woodrow wilson. and that turned out to be a little more pressing but maybe not in the ways he thought.
wilson was a great believer in the power of rhetoric, of persuasion as a rule of noble democratic leaders and he said at 1.1 of his early essays quoted by patricia o'toole if arguments are weapons and people are the judges then things will work out. when he iran for presidentn 1912 he iran for president on a jeffersonian democratic conservative, democratic platform with individual rights, competition, government which the people participated. he spoke in kansas city, interestingly enough, and refer to two of the three times he spoke in kansas city are referred to in patricia's book in the first time he spoke he said the controls of politics control her life
and they are ruled by the great bodies of what is accumulated and inherited wealth. he was about getting rid of that. kind of a populist agenda, familiar to us today, perps.
in 1914 he campaigned here to get his legislative agenda passed including his agenda with military preparation for the war that was going on in europe which the united states had not yet entered. interestingly enough he refused to meet with the democratic committee people in his tour of the western united states during that campaign. interesting to me in particular because my great-grandmother was the dent the mechanic national committee firm for europe and it also speaks to what patricia says about woodrow wilson very eloquently in this book about how he was treated into himself and he was not a good partner and a good collaborator and he did not listen perhaps as much as he should. then in 1919 in a speech during a tour which patricia goes into
but she doesn't mention the speech as he told the last to get and gain support for the league of nations he was very disappointed in that as i'm sure you're here and already know but he spoke in kansas city in 1919 spoke about democracy give the city and about american democracy and the preservation and extension of american democracy to report the irony of that is that in 1919 he was speaking about democracy in a town run by tom gast. [laughter] patricia opal portrays amanda constantly retreated into himself at crucial moments and he is not unlike her brilliant trail of henry adams in five of hearts. but also she treats him with great empathy and as a man of deep faith in both democratic and christian values servant leadership, he believed in a servant leadership with all that
has come to mean which in my experience is usually a very partial humility which was with woodrow wilson. the book also empathetically pictures the opposition excluding the [inaudible] partially unforgiving as a man who fired him of his third term. but henry lodge got treatment. after the war they are treated well and it's hard not to admire a guy who after wilson released a 14 points said in god he only had ten. [laughter] the real problem was not the number of points or indeed the possible but the attempt to sell the inevitable compromises with a vengeance and politics of the peace conference as a legitimate offspring of ideals and the
rational self -- to do that will taking largest at back with any market president is in important ways. yetohn lucas may still be right and remember that harry truman, our president of course, who may have been in one or two or all three audiences and harry was himself declared wilsonian declared the sony and carried in his wallet for most of his life a copy of the passage from tennyson's loxley hall envisioning the parliament of man and of course he helped inaugurate the united nations and the marshall plan, nato et cetera. [inaudible] patricia has written
up byidely praised biography of teddy roosevelt and about the friendship of clarence king and henry adams with henry james, mark twain, william howells and most of the 19th century they came in for comic rel it was a finist for the pulitzer prize and she won the astounding presidential medal for outstanding teaching in her work with the juvenile delinquents at columbia university in new york. ladies and gentlemen, patricia o'toole. [applause] >> thank you. very grateful. thank you. hello, kansas city. thank you. i am never happier than when i am talking at a library. i discovered the library in my little town i michigan for myself when i was about six and
i could reid priddy well by then and i was walking on the main street and i saw this thing that i thought was a store that sold books and the houses i gw up and n have a lot of books so this is exciting to me. i went i the librarian and i looked around and i never seen so many books i looked around and wondered how you could buy them and look at them and figure out which one you wanted to buy. this woman was sitting at a desk explained to me that you do not have to buy them but you could borrow them. i said how did you do that if it just comes could do and she said no, no, you could have a library card and you could take them out for two weeks and i cannot believe it was absolutely magical and it was from 1953 or something like that and i remember standing there watching her fill outy library card
number 1221 and waiting for that ink to drive because i was afraid she was going to change her mind in the middle of ts transaction. it was always a homecoming for me to come to a library. d like to start and probably finish by sharing a few thoughts about my approach to biography and telling you how i came to focus this biography on wilson's morality. it was not the idea that i had when i started out and i think a biographies as portraits and a good biography , too me, like a good portrait is more than a little rendin rendering of the . when i admire a portrait i think it's a fairly common reaction it's because i have the sense that the artist was able to get
behind the face and bring that something of the essence of the character of the person. it gives us a sense that we know this person. the face is just the starting point. with biography for me anyway the facts are just starting point and the facts are like the face. the excitement when i am reading a biography comes from not the facts that although they can be extraordinary and a medic but from what the biography of trent by effort makes of the facts is what happens to you and what happens with what you make so what i looking at a person is woodrow wilson or that is what i am thinking about. where are the connections that are not obvious and the things that seem like pieces of information like can you see
them or patterns in the subject behavior or unwitting revelations that your subject makes. for me, great biographies are always great character studies and they are not just compilations of events and my initial interest in portraying faination with fascinationanding with world war i. i had would like to continue. i just finished a book with roosevelt after and i like to stay in the world war i the spac and wha i do and i thought i could do wilson as commander-in-chief because i noticed there was not much on that subject and i very quickly discovered that the reason there was not much was that that subject was a good paragraph but
not a great book. the reason for that is he elevated most everything. he delegated to his generals and admirals and delegated to the team of men that he had running things on the home front and the war is there in the background in "the moralist" but that action 4000 miles away and i'm trying to keep the focus on wilson so there's not as much war as i thought there would be. i made early on i had never done this before but i think i will yso it now and i started with a folder that was called a file folder called what can a man was woodrow wilson before he became president. when you think about it someone becomes president at a point in their life is half over at least and sometimes they're much closer to the end of life and
whoever they are when they turn up in the white house on the first day that they will be when they are president. i read a lot o i read what wilson had to say about himself but i also read memoirs by people who actually knew him and biographies that were written by people who move them and try to get as close to him as i could to figure out what kind of guy he before he went to the white house. i made a list of things that stood out to me and he was principled, dignified, restrained and he was a man of strong emotions and he believed fervently in rising above them and he didn't understand why other people cannot do that. why senators and commerce men would vote self-interest and he
was not the least impulsive, intelligent in a scholarly way. he had serious, well-informed, well versed in the workings of government and that has been his subject matter and he was an early political scientist and that is what he talked political science and history as a professor at wesleyan and princeton and he was also the greatest public speaker of his timend he was an adoring husband and father and it is wonderful to read his letters to his first wife, ellen, and his children's memory of him. he wasn't the sole support -- he had a lot on his shoulders. he was not just the support of his wife and played daughters but there were these relatives who turned up any to help and
woodrow was the only person who made good. everybody else counted on him for financial supportor years at a time and he never complained about this or talked about it and we only know about it because hisife, ellen would mention it in a letter to someone else. he was not a warm, outgoing, extroverted guy. he was courteous and unusually thoughtful and one of my favorite stories about this is a ti in the summer of 1914 and his wife ellen had just died and wood road had just begun and the family had rented a summer house in new hampshire so he went up there and his friend a confidant came to visit him and wilson put him -- woodrow and ellen had shared a sweet the cherry bathroom in the middle
and so wilson put colonel house in the other bedroom and when house got up in the morning he realized that wilson had gotten up even earlier and much earlier than he was accustomed to so he could use the bathroom and be out of his guests way. i found that rather extraordinary to hear that a man who is burdened by what is happening in the world with the world war that has spread very quickly and also grieving his wife of 31 years. he is not a good schmooze or, woodrow wilson. he doesn't really like making conversation and he would rather not -- he has this repertoire of things that he does so he knew many limericks and he would recite limericks and he would also read after dinner and he
found it relaxing to reduce family. there you are and your fathers a president in your home and having dinner with the family and you're hoping to talk to dad about what he's doing but he's in the mood to meet you and not in the mood to talk. so, he is unusual personality. when he became governor of new jersey in 1910 he liked being courted by a democratic leaders but he cannot or never bring himself to court them and he did not court friendship either. he was afraid of being rejected or liking someone more that he could be liked back. he never took the initiative in forming a friendship. he would collaborate and when he had to but when he faced a challenge he like to figure it out by himself and often when he
did that he prepared a memo and subject to the cabinet and there was expected to sign off and it's a rare moment in a cabinet meeting when they are discussing what he should do. he is usually already decided by the time he takes it up with them. many people who noticed it once he made up his mind that he would not change it. he preferred to thought long and hard about what was the right thing to do. he disliked negotiations intensely even as a young man. this comes up in his very first book which he wrote when he was in graduate school and he thought that you should figure out the right thing to do in negotiation was bad because you have to compromise and it is something else. the ultimate solution to whatever it was would be less
good then if you could stick to your guns and managed to get this thing that you thought was better and i don't know whether he did not know ts whether he it was an idea that somebody explained to him and he rejected it but usually when people are negotiating and compromising you ask if you are going to have to give something up you ask if you have to give something up and return but that is not something you like to do he rarely did it unless someone suggested it as a strategy. also, i am still, you know, wandering around in what someone called to be wilderness and in the early stages of not knowing where i'm going and i decided to
take a look at several books on presidential greatness to see that suggested anything. here it is what this turned out to be the goal line. i went first to the index looking for the entries on wilson and one of these by the ians with thoma a bailey in the index woodrow wilson takes up more space than fdr and then lincoln and then washington and i thought, my goodness, that is interesting. how can that be? it turns out that of our major presidents wilson was the most controversial. i wanted to see what that was about. why was he so controversial? the short version is his triumphs were in august and his defeats were enormous and in achieving his triumphs he had a lot of opposition and in his defeat he had people were upset
i think people were glad and i think his isolation that his love of solitude made havectione didn't have a lot of political allies in the way that was about it. he could defend anyone. if he was in his office and he went to see him about something and you had your conversation and theodore roosevelt was very likely to say would you like to come up and have lunch with mrsn and me. quentin was asking about the dog. so you go up and have lunch with the president and you have a nice warm feeling about the as well. wilson cannot bring himself to do things like that.
but this intense praise and thacoem he got really wanted to know what was at the bottom of that so i kept reading and the thing that popped t the service fas another portrait painter which was another quality i am sure but it was a deep sense of moral responsibility as a political leader. that is how i came to write about and put the focus on his preoccupation with morality. some people admire and critics have sought as an arrogance because well, you will see what happens to him as we go along here. it is not that i have this
biographer that notices my already and many people have noticed it but they attributed it to the fact that his father was a minister. his father was a presbyterian minister and they were hanging from every branch in his symmetry. the thought was he had grown up with this strict religious upbringing and his father was a liberal presbyterian -- the origin of species came along and so there were clergymen were just upset about darwin's ide and there was a wing of progressives presbyterians who saw scientific truth as a higher truth so they did not have problems with darwin's ideas and wilson's father was like tt and he will father was a
chaplain for the confederate army for summer and when the southern wing of the presbyterian church seceded when the civil war began his father was fine with that so he wasn't liberal about anything but in terms of intellectual ideas he was. so, this actually reminded me of the presbyterians that i had known when i was growing up. when i was not at the library i had t be in catholic school which was its own kind of experience but my family was spiritually disorganized and my father's family was not catholic and they were presbyterian and my mother was catholic but our catholic church and the school that i went to was a polish catholic church with the recent immigrant and my mother wanted to do church work but the published ladies in church only
wanted ladies doing it. my mother did her church work at the presbyterian church so i was a presbyterian brownie and went to presbyterian day camp in the summer and also, being way the heck up there in northern michigan this town is the same as montréal so it was way up there. it was way behind the time in every way. when i was a four which would intruc me to a very old lady and said this is grandma [inaudible]. when she was four she sought abraham lincoln's funeral train. i did not know who abraham ht then but very soon i did and all my life i felt that connection to this woman who would have been born in 1861 so woodrow was born five years before that and his early
memory and that story was one of my earliest and his earliest memory was of running and being outside in the front yard of the parsonage in hearing strangers walked by to see the end of 1860 and this man was saying to another man lincoln has been elected and there will be war. woodrow understood this was something serious so he went into and iran into the house to ask his father what war was and what this was all about. i feel this personal connection actually to woodrow wilson and his time. he took his civics very seriously and i did too. i'm a new deal democrat and i
was not born until after fdr died but that is where i lived. i actually fly the flag at my house and it's a very big deal to me. it has everything to do with civics and one of my favorite stories about wilson is he is alone in the white house and its summer 1918 and outside his windows open and outside you can hear the marine band plane and they and their concert with the star-spangled banner. there he is, alone in the private quarters of the white house and he stands up. so, i don't know that i'd ever done that but i appreciate that about him. i came to see his moral ideal and yes he was a devout christian all his life but he wasn't a zealot. he never claimed to know the will of god and he did try to impose his presbyterianism on
the country at all. he used phrases like god bless america and it really wasn't proselytizing that he was doing but i came to see his moral ideals as civic ideals and those are the ones that were so important to him and on par with his christianity but that was what he govern from from his moral ideas, not from his christian ideals. i think it was a result of his foreign education -- formal education in history, government and law. he wrote often about democracy and very frequent and he thought that because democracy rests on the consent of the governed that it is most moral form of government and he thought, as many people have before and
since, that since the united states was the world's most successful democracy that it was a morally superior nation. he also believed in what he called moral force. this is a phrase used over and over and over again. what he means by it is the force that you have if you are a deeply moral leader or deeply moral nation and he actually thought that the greatness of the united states lay in its moral force, not in its wealth and this is quite different from many of his contemporaries who were all excited that the united states was now the richest nation in the world and it happened after 1900 -- you know when he comes to office people are still very excited about being that it is even richer
than britain. ... his usual way of doing it, he would go to ask congress for something and he would make, he would say it's the right thing to do and not only that it will prove to be the prosperous and politically smart thing to do. that combination of moral argument that's always there in the practical aspect as well. it's interesting, they usually put the moral argument first and then said and there will
be these practical benefits. i think later presidents would argue, unless it's a moment where you really need to rise up to some great occasion, puing the practical side of things, we will do this because it will be good for everyone in the country rather than were going to do this because it's the morally right thing to do. he passes a package of reforms very quickly, the federal reserve board, the federal income tax, the antitrust law and the federal trade commission, all of these things are still with us. they were really important and it was the end of the day's of modernizing, putting the federal goverent in charge of regulating the economy in a way that, to a degree that had
not been the case before and no previous president, and only to later part presidents, fdr and lbj had a legislative record as impressive as wilson's. some historians say he's lucky because all these things he did have been talked about for a long time and also he had control of both houses of congress. i think his moral arguments also contributed to these victories, they made it difficult for congress to oppose him without sounding less moral than he was. i was in tree by these moral victories for another reason, they were purchased in kind of an immoral bargain. the southerners in the house and the senate realized this expansion of federal authority
might ultimately interfere with states rights and all these state laws enforcing segregation and basically white supremacy and they didn't want the federal government mandating and that kind of thing so they asked the wilson administration, not wilson himself, but his two handlers in congress, they said we will vote for these things, but in exchange we want the civil service segregated so this is a huge blow to the blacks who had supported him in the election of 1912 and it infuriated black leaders and it also inferior rated white modern liberals who had supported wilson because they thought he was genuinely progressive about everything. people came to see him and he would have them to the oval
office to discuss these things , and i was fascinated to see that these discussions, when he would get into arguments about this, he made it made him sick and i think it was just based on following this pattern through other things, this is the man's love for being on the moral high road and i think that he knew he wasn't there on this issue, and it just tore him up. after the first one of these conversations he had to go to bed for several days, and after another one, he just, as soon as his visitors were out of the office he grabbed his sidekick his physician and said were leaving town for the weekend. i have to get out of here. so, it's kind of, i don't know of any other presidential stories like that, all
presidents have to make decisions they wish they didn't have to make but he is the one who rlly, these things were actual body blows to him. his concern with morality is also figured prominently in his foreign relations. the united states was neutral for the first two and half years of world war i. wilson did not see neutrality as standing by. he thought it was a moral scale to the free-throw immoral war. that was kind of his take. he said he didn't even want people thinking about who should win the war.
in 1917, a lot of german aggression against the united states, a submarine attack and other things, he had to do 180-degree turn toward war. again he comes up with a moral justification for it and you all have heard this line, the world must be made safe for democracy. he wasn't going, he thought germany had to be defeated because it had been so aggressive and that the german empire had to end, but he's looking beyond that to what the world would be after the war and he wanted it to be safe for democracy. he didn't mean by that of the whole world should become a democracy. he meant that those nations that wanted to be democracies should be able to be democracies and should not be, if they were small states they should not be preyed upon by
the great and powerful states as germany had prayed on with its invasion of belgium and so on. that was just a starting point. so, he w have this phrase the world must be made safe for democracy so we have to go to war is the second part of that. well, there were a lot of americans who did not want to go to war. they were either immigrants or children of immigrants, a third of the country was at that time and they had relatives figing on one side or the other and there were a lot of socialists, a couple million socialists and they opposed the war on principle. then there were people like the mennonites and the quakers who opposed war on principle.
not everybody was all swept up a mess. so these protests and there's the largest clampdown on defense that we've ever seen, 1500 people were convicted and went to jail. it was very dar time for free speech so the war happened and you have to read other books, but not a lot sometimes drops out of sight so this is distracting for someone who's trying to paint a portrait. your guy goes like this and just disappears. did a lot of studying, reading, writing, thinking and
all of this with his vibrant second wife who is 16 years younger than he is, he married her a little more than a year after his first wife died, and there is a need, the white house us ushers diary and its people who come to the white house not so much to the office to see him, there was some of that but you see who's coming and going from the private quarters and 99% of the time, and that's probably on the low side, wilson is having breakfast lunch and dinner either by himself or with his family. he is not inviting senators to come and join him. but, when he has to make this
agonizing decision to go to war, he is actually consulting people and inviting people to come to his study and come see him. all of them understood this is important so there's many, many accounts of their visits with him as he goes toward making this decision. it's exactly the decision he did not want to make but he thanks he has no choice but to go to war. that happens in the spring of 1917 and fall of 1918 we are at the end of the war, 2 million americans are on the ground in france and the other armies that we were fighting alongside, the french and the british in particular, those armies had been so decimated by the fighting that the
american presence, even though we came really late it was decisive just because there was 2 million soldiers. so, you think that when the state comes he could, the american casualties are so much smaller than what the french and the british had endured. you think he would just be giving thanks that it's all over and be jubilant in some way in a restrained way, but a couple days before that, they held midterm elections, were coming up on the same thing and the republicans gained control of the house and gained control of the senate. wilson had, just before the election, sent out a notice to the country asking people to vote democratic because he was going to have to negotiate the peace and he wanted a democratic house and senate on
his side. well, the republicans were furious and understandably so because they had supported all of his war measures and now he seemed to be saying, look, it's gonna go better if i have democrats helping me then if i have republicans helping me so nothing went right for him after this election. it's painful to watch them the opposition he met turned this moral sense that had animated his greatest deeds into a sense of moral superiority, and i think that's the danger of being a moralist. some people think being a moralist is like an across-the-board bad thing, but the dictionary didn't say that. this is a moralist to someone who's concerned about walls, but he goes from being morally principled to being, there's a
moral vanity or moral superiority that just hardens him in his opposition at the very time when he should be cultivating the other side because he's now a minority t, but he had this idea that the president was the only public official elected by all the people and he said i'm going to be president for another 21 months and those people will have to deal with me. i'm not going to deal with them. so he goes to the paris peace conference with this in mind and he irritates the republicans even more by not asking for their counsel on the piece from an american point of view and not inviting any permanent republicans to join the peace delegation that
he took with him to paris. so it's not unreasonable for them to be quite put out with him. he goes off and negotia with lloyd george and bigg does the big triumph that he comes away with is the league of nations, the covenant for the league of nations, and they made that part of the treaty of verse i. the british supported his efforts to do this and the french were brought along. they had to fight the very hard right in france, the militarists who did not think the league of nations could do it but it was brought to being on paper and effective charter for it. wilson comes home with the treaty that has to be ratified by two thirds majority and
he's sure he's.together because the senate have never before failed to ratify a peace treaty and things did not work out that way. his big antagonist is the senator from massachusetts, a conservative republican who does not think the league can work. when i went to high school, he was pretrade as the evil isolationists who didn't want the u.s. to take part in world affairs and that's quite unjust to him part he wanted the united states to take part in be a good world citizen, but he didn't want the league of nations or anyone else outside the united states calling the shots. he thought that would not work. so wilson, it's known as a nationalist but it's not like the nationalists were talking
about now where there's an emphasis on white nationals. it's a nationalist in the sense of putting national interests first and along comes wilson with his notion of internationalism were going to have this organization that won't plant any government but it's a world for the governments come together make big decisions, particularly to respond collectively when some big monster power invades poor little countries who come together to be back the regress her. wilson, they think internationalism is a very sorry substitute for nationalism but wilson, this is a quote, the greatest nationalist is the man who wants his nation to be the greatest nation in the greatest nation is the nation which penetrates among the nations of the world. that is a very grand
ambition. according to wilson, you couldn't be a good nationalists unless you were a good internationalist. you had to have the fate of th world on your side. they find himse inhe fight of his lif a he goes off on the speaking tour of the country, they had always worked for him in the past, and he thanks i'm going to get the people all excited about the league of nations, they will write their senators and the senate will actually have to pass this treaty, but americans didn't really feel that way. there were much more inclined by the argument which was, for a hundred plus years we've been on our own, we've thrived, we've grown prosperous, were democratic, why should we risk this for something that has not been eried so wilson comes home, h
collapsed on his tour and he came he inbout a week later he had a major stroke and then he couldn't read the ratification of the treaty. the treaty is defead and the united states never joins the league of nations and wilson leaves office a defeated man. just a little ps on this, when world war ii came along his stock fell even lower because people said see, the league of nation couldn't prevent another world war, but fdr was a young assistant secretary of the navy throughout his presidency and he is watching everything wilson does, filing away what works and what doesn't work, remember this, forget that. fdr was a committed internationalist and he
treated wilson's plan for this new world order kind o like the first draft of something that was worthy of tradition. some think fdr, he throughout everything wilson did and started from scratch, but i see it more as he thought there were things worth preserving that he and the advisors around him understood and more about why the league had failed, and one of the biggest differences, from the get-go, fdr had bipartisan support for what he was doing. fdr understood that was a big
political mistake. they also thought they had been asked to do to much. in addition to creating will became the united nations they created other organizations as well. some of them regional like nato saying that if you divided some of these maybe you would have a greater chance at success. you can decide among yourselves whether you think that was wilson 2.0 or fdr one point oh, but it came to be and fdr died before the un charter was fined and it was up to truman's take up this
cause and make it work and create this post order that we been living with throughout the last 70 years. here we are, wilson was thinking about these forces in the world that made the world blowup. these great power alliances with armed races and hyper nationalism that turned into rivalry. he thought of the league of nations as a way to respond to that. were kind of back at that place with international institutions falling apart. we have brexit pulling out of
the eu, there's a rise of dictatorship and were seeing the xenophobic candidates getting large shares ofot in european countries. were kind of back to this question of can the world be made safe for democracy again. for all his faults, for all he got wrong, he deserves admiration for his moral force against those who set the world ablaze and how can you have a permanent peace. no he didn't get it all right and heating get enough advice on how to go about this, but we still need to figure out a
way to have a peaceful world. he was the one, he was the first one to recognize that going it alone is nossible in the. wld you can withdraw from a climate accord but climate change is going to go on anyway. somebody said there's no planet d. were now so interconnected in terms of communication and money flying around the globe so there's that and then there's all this tribal stuff happening down below and we still need to think about whether the world can be made safe for democracy. the league of nations, for all its flaws, wilson brought into
being an organization that was committed to peace and democracy and free trade and a collective response to international aggression and was a truly revolutionary idea and it was the touchstone of that idea, it's still the touchstone for debate on what role the united states should play in the world. we can come down on different ideas about that, but we are still kind of thinking about wilson's idea and i was bad because of this are good because of that. my criticisms of it, you might think my portrait would be dark and unpleasant and you're partly right, there would be any twinkle in his eyes, he wouldn't look like a guy you'd like to have a beer with, but i think he would have some
attractive qualities as well. i'd give his chin in upward tilt and put him toward the edge of the camera to suggest he's trying to move into some other world. i think there has to be a certain tension in his posture as if he's trying to keep his feelings under control in the mouth wouldn't be smiling or unsmiling, it would show determination and the eyes would gaze across us a big distance, but not in an arrogant way. i would want some suggestion that he's a dreamer. his dream of a world committed to peace is as big a dream as any world leader ever had so
thank you for listening to all of these thoughts, you've been very attentive, and as i paint my portrait, now i hope you have some questions. that would be very rewarding. thank you. [applause] i understand that if you want to ask a question you need to come up to the microphone. >> i had always been made to believe that wilson was quite racist, but you seem to think maybe not so much, that he did that as a compromise to southerners? how was his, what was his personal attitude. he genuinely believed that segregation was the key to the harmony between the races. we don't believe that anymore, and a lot of people in his
time, some people want to forgive him because it was a hundred years ago, but i don't think you really can't because he counted himself an enlightened progressive. one of the most important aspects of his racism, there's racism here in this country, but his foreign-policy also had a racist element toward the japanese on a couple of occasions, and also any brown skin person south of the border. it's fairly broad and were back to this been such a problem. what you do with the guy who has this magnificent thing, the league of nation failed but it gives us an idea we still haven't cherish, and this other stuff.
people have strong feelings. nobody applauds his racism anymore. it is a dark mark on his record as it is his repression of free speech. you can't get out of it. >> as an educator, as someone who teaches history, i'm trying to figure how to reconcile the morality of wilson with jim crow and imperialism. how do you handle it in the book? >> i pay a lot of attention to it actually, throughout the book. sometimes biographies have a chapter about this, and usually the chapter is about african americans and wilson, but i think it's important to
see it as broader than that. in terms of reconciling it, i don't think you can. you just have to say there was this and then there was this. these things coexisted in the same man. there are these great polls every year cnn does a poll and they have measurements of ingredients of greatness. he slipped this year from number six toumber ten and he had usually been in the top four or five and i'm convinced it's because there are much more discussions about race and that's a discussion you need to have. i many use the term black-and-white, but not
referring to race. if we can just see things in black and white, we need so much gray to discuss not just wilson, but everybody because were just very good at putting people into categories of all good or all bad. we discovered that all good guy isn't all good. how is read those greatness polls. i'm very interested in them, but i think if we had a poll where we were measuring consequential presidents rather than great presidents he would always be in the top four, mainly because of when he was president. he was president when dashiell had a big impact on that but you don't have to think of him as a great president.
>> two very quick questions. in terms of moderate politician politicians, question two in terms of presidential honesty, where would you put him if next and was a one in georgia washington was a ten. >> wilson, i think in terms of honesty and integrity he would be way up there. you could probably, when you're setting yourself up as a moral leader, it's very easy to be accusative. if you fall short or if you're going around campus is why you don't go around bragging about your morals because the first time you do something wrong there to hold it against you much more than if you just kind of a bad guy all the time and do something wrong. comparing him to more modern
politicians, i think jimmy carter and a little bit obama in the sense that they're both these amazing speakers and obama was much more outgoing than wilson was as president, but sometimes you had this feeling that he'd rather be home with his family and obama is a very different personality than joe biden. joe biden is much more outgoing. it's very strange to comparing woodrow wilsono barack obama. in terms of personality they are much more interior than extra burden. >> just a real quick follow up on the honesty.
was he honest about his health? >> all my goodness, it's hard, that's a very good question. we could actually stay here for another hour and talk about his health. after the stroke, everything you can read about it suggested that he should have resigned. he didn't want to because he didn't like his vice president d also some doctor convinced mrs. wilson that it would be terrible for him to resign that he would just wither and die if he didn't have the thought of returning to the presidency in a big way up ahead of him. there are a lot of specialists brought in and what was the opinion of one of his main doctors, he was very conflicted about it. as an officer of the navy he has constitutional
responsibilities but he's the president's physician so those things are in conflict a little bit. i think the cover-up was wrong and there's an excellent book on the subject called edith and woodrow by phyllis lee 11. it's one of the very best wilson biographies and it's largely about the cover-up. that was indeed wrong. >> first of all, thank you for coming to kansas city. >> it's so nice to be here. he certainly had his hands full with international affairs, but domestically, if i'm remembering my history correctly, he also had the issues of women voting. my memory of it is that he wasn't parcularl helpful to that cause. he would be somewhat considered a misogynist. with the moral focus that you have, is that fair to him or
was he just a product of his time? >> i think in this category he was just a product of his time but your memory is absolutely correct. he came around to dropping his opposition he wanted to be on the right side of history. the issue for him was a states rate issue. he thought it was fine if individual states wanted to give women the right to vote, that was completely fine by him but he thought the state should decide. they had been at it for decades, they had 12 states so there became this momentum for a constitutional amendment to make it happen all at once.
he was late in supporting that, for sure. >> it seems that germany's surrender to the 14 points, but there were no 14 points, there was only one left, self-determination went out the window, they all went out the window and germany had to be a lot of preparation, they had to get a lot of money back in their economy suffered quite a bit. would you agree to the possibility that if all 14 points were included in the peace treaty that france and england really rejected, would you agree to the possibility that possibly world war ii could have been prevented, hitler may have never come to
power because the economy in germany would not have suffered so much? >> that's an internal question that lets of people debate and it's a really good question. one of the most interesting things i've ever read about it, that was the theory of the book, economic consequences of the peace, that it was too hard and it did demand it too much therefore were going to get a second world war. it came to pass and it looked like they were right. there is a young french economic student who did this doctoral dissertation turning the idea upside down thing actually, we didn't punish them enough because they had money to raise another army.
his father finished tidying up this manuscript and it was published in england and everybody said how cheeky, how ridiculous that were getting this news from this dead frenchman. they cannot develop their ideas or campaign for them, but what i wish now, he went back and looked at all the predictions and saw they had not come to pass. they had this grand idea but when i got down to brass tacks and all those numbers and hadn't played out in that way. it was kind of like a cult figure. not many people know this idea but if i were going to do a
doctoral dissertation in economic history, i would like to take on those ideals and try to come to s conclusion about if it came down on one side or the other. his book is called the carthaginian peace or the economic consequences of mr. payne. >> owner remind everyone the book is available-for-sale in the lobby and tricia will be signing copies when were done. >> they appear to be the same age. i'm a pleased that you have a couple more books in you. i'd like to ask a question about history in the present moment. i was in the education conclave about a week ago with 400 local people talking about the future of education and what high school graduates should have was a poll in the mt
of that and a budget of subject matters that were asked whether they were important or not. cut to the bottom line, history didn't fare very well which strikes me as a very sad thing. would u care to comment on what you see in your profession and maybe what we might've thought about this when we're poking around in those libraries as it has evolved over the course of your working life? i' optimist. biography and history are alive and well in books and tv so i think people get their information in different ways. i also think, i love history from the time i was a little kid, but not every little kid shares that. i think history is kind of an acquired taste for people. something happens, like 911
happ and were caught unawar wt to know how this happened, what came before this that led to this moment. it is distressing to see fights, history, there shouldn't be any rules about who writes it, if you want to write a book about woodrow wilson that takes issue with me, please do. i'll be very interested to re i so, it's there for whoever wants to explore it, and i'm worried more about the difference that's happening between kids who are extremely well educated, there are
really fine schools which is now a minority of kids who are in schools and kids who are not being made to work hard, i don't like to pick on teachers, my mother was a teacher and i know how hard she worked at it, but somehow the knowledge is not getting, it's not sticking to the students. when i went to the university of michigan in the fall of 1964, there were a lot of students from new york public schools who were there. they were the smartest kids in ann arbor. i don't think that would be the case anymore. that's the hollowing out of public education. i'm an optimist who is sad. does that make sense. [laughter] thank you. thank you very much.
[inaudible conversations] >> look at some books being published this week. in run debut with a bolivian thomas frank explores the way it manifests itself in our society. emily jane fox reports on president trump's five children and son-in-law jared kushner. political columnists argues that progressives have taken over academia am pop culture and journalism in outrage inc. in uncensored, william college graduate and founder of uncomfortable learning, zachary woods shares his
thoughts on free speech in america. yes we still can, former obama administration director describes howolic the media and the internet changed during the obama presidency and how democrats should respond to the trump administration. also being published this week, new york times national security correspondent david singer looks at the rise of cyber weapons in the perfect weapon. formerly known as food, kristin lawless reports on how industrial farming and mechanical views to processed foods are changing our body. look for these titles and in bookstores this coming weeks. >> that afternoon and welcome to the 34th annual chicago tribune lit fast. i want to