Woodrow Wilson Forum

The 2011 Woodrow Wilson Forum was held on Wednesday, March 16, at the Student Festival Conference Center at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. At the forum, entitled "Presidential Couples: Power and Influence in the White House," 106 Advanced Placement students from six area high schools discussed the role of the First Lady through paper presentations and panel discussions. Awards were given for the two best papers. Prior to the student panel, nationally known author and biographer Kristie Miller kicked off the forum with a keynote address entitled "The Use and Abuse of the First Lady's Power."

Students from six high schools participated in the forum, including Grace Christian School in Staunton; Buffalo Gap, Fort Defiance, and Riverheads High Schools in Augusta County; Rockbridge County High School in Lexington; and East Rockingham High School in Harrisonburg. Ms. Miller's keynote address started the event.  She was followed by Dr. Anthony Eksterowicz, Professor Emeritus at James Madison University, who discussed the "State of First Lady Studies."  Seven students then presented their research papers, and participated in a question-and-answer session. After lunch, the students divided into small groups for roundtable discussions of various topics about First Ladies. The discussions were then summarized, with an intriquing conversation on the role of a potential First Gentleman.

The Director of Education at the WWPL, said, "Inspired by the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, we believe that inviting advanced high school students to discuss matters of national importance contributes to our nation's civic health. This year, the students engaged the increasingly important topic of the influence of the First Lady in American politics and national life. We were also pleased to bring the students to James Madison University campus for a day."

Kristie Miller is the author of several award-winning biographies about women in politics in the first half of the 20th century. She served for twenty years as director of the Chicago Tribune Company and taught school for fifteen years on four continents. She is currently a Research Associate at the University of Arizona and lives in Washington, D.C. Her most recent book is Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies, a dual biography that sheds new light on these influential women.

Joscelyn Seaton, from Grace Christian School, and Lauren Sheridan, from Buffalo Gap High School, each won a $125 scholarship for their papers.  Miss Seaton wrote on "The Mothers of this Nation" and Miss Sheridan wrote on "First Lady Edith Wilson."  James Madison University's School of Public and International Affairs contributed the scholarship awards. 

The Woodrow Wilson Student Forum has been held every other year since 1990. The program is made possible through the generous support of the Frank R. Pancake Education Endowment.

See below for papers from 2011 Forum participants.

"The Mothers of this Nation" - Grace Christian School

"First Lady Edith Wilson" - Buffalo Gap High School

"Lou Hoover" - East Rockingham High School

"Pat Nixon, an Enigma of Goodwill" - Rockbridge High School

"Defining the Role of First Lady:  A Look through the Eyes of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush" - Buffalo Gap High School

"Michelle Obama and the Role of the First Lady" - East Rockingham High School

"The Impossible Comparison" - Fort Defiance High School


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation