Ticket to Siberia

Ticket to Siberia

Just after the United States declared war on Germany in April of 1918, George Sosnowski sent Woodrow Wilson a letter warning of German plans to disable the military might of the newly-formed Russian democracy. President Wilson looked to the Kerensky government to bring freedom to the Russian empire, but he also feared  that a German move to disable their opponents on the Eastern Front would make America’s job on the western side much more difficult when US troops finally got to Europe.

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Woodrow Wilson, the Reader

For more than fifty years, historians have discussed whether President Woodrow Wilson had dyslexia or some other type of difficulty reading. As a young boy, Tommy Wilson was considered stupid by some because of the hard time he had learning, though his parents remained confident of his abilities. Wilson told his wife later in life that he did not read until he was nine, and one of his daughters remembered him saying that he was not a confident reader until he was twelve. During his years in college, he complained of how slowly he read, and some have considered his enthusiasm for shorthand to be a sign that it freed him from the slow and troublesome work that taking notes presented him with. President Wilson often insisted on preparing drafts on his own, even for run-of-the-mill letters, though he usually did this on his personal typewriter or using shorthand.

Still, the President did not often make the types of mistakes associated with dyslexia, and though he always struggled with foreign languages, he always managed to get good grades. It is possible that some of his troubles came from poor eyesight that he finally corrected with glasses after college. Woodrow Wilson treasured oratory as the supreme form of rhetoric, as did his father, but he learned about many of the skills of speech makers by reading their words, even copying them out at times.

 

From one of his early notebooks:

Language, Learning a: La

“My way of learning a language is always to begin with the Bible, which I can read without a dictionary. After a few days passed in this way, I am master of all the common particles, the common rules of syntax, and a pretty large vocabulary. Then I fall on some good classical work. It was in this way that I learned both Spanish and Portuguese, and I shall try the same course with German.”—Macaulay.

Language, Use of.

“Men who know the world hold, and I think with some show of reason, that he who best knows how to conceal his necessities and desires, is the most likely person to find redress, and that the true use of speech is not so much to express our wants as to conceal them.”—Goldsmith.

†Oratory: Oa

An orator should be: “vehemens ut procella excitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fulmen; tonat, fulgurat, et rapidis eloquentiae fluctibus cuneta proruit et proturbat.” Tullus.

And we know that he enjoyed books a great deal as an adult, even reading aloud to members of his family from literature, poetry, or scripture as a common evening entertainment. As he wrote to a friend while still a young man, “But, while not neglecting the privileges of society—so to speak—I am the more while a slave to the seductions of literature.” He often shared his reading with family, such as when he wrote to Jessie from Scotland,“I go up to see the Yates every day I can, and we read a good deal together. Just now we are reading a charming little book called Uncle William, by Jeanette Lee, which I hope you will all read. It is really quite a charming little idyll.”

Of reading the bible, he wrote, “The Bible is the word of life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourselves, – read, not little snatches here and there, but long passages that will really be the road to the heart of it.” Though he continued to read slowly, Wilson thoroughly immersed himself in every aspect of the world of letters. Toward the end of his life, he gave up on much of the news of the day and the heated political discussions, but he continued to read the bible and the detective novels he enjoyed so much.

Woodrow Wilson Quotes

Woodrow Wilson Quotes

Respected as a scholar and writer in his own time, Woodrow Wilson has become famous for some pithy quotes. Oftentimes, though, his original thoughts can get lost in the desire to share something short and sweet. So we thought it was time to share some background and sources for some Wilson sayings you might have heard

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The Oldest Book at the Woodrow Wilson Library

The Oldest Book at the Woodrow Wilson Library

Here in the Library and Research Center, we have quite a few books that are older than you might expect. Not only have there been efforts to acquire volumes that represent what President Wilson’s father, Joseph R. Wilson, would have had in the Manse when working as a Presbyterian minister in Staunton in the 1850s, but donations have come in to us from the wider Wilson family and from collectors of anything ever owned by Woodrow Wilson.

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Margaret Wilson’s Spiritual Passage to India

Margaret Wilson’s Spiritual Passage to India

In 1932, President Wilson’s daughter Margaret discovered Sri Aurobindo’s  Essays on the Gita while browsing through the New York Public Library. She returned daily to read the book in the reading room until she finished it, after which she began corresponding with the author. In 1938 she requested permission to join his ashram in Pondicherry, India despite recurring health problems.

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President Wilson Memorial in Prague, Czech Republic

President Wilson Memorial in Prague, Czech Republic

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright had to live in exile with her family when she was a girl during the Nazi occupation of her native city of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Later, when the Communists took over the country’s government after World War II, her father took the family to the United States, where Madeleine became a citizen, raised a family and earned a PhD before joining the Carter administration. She is well aware of the troubled history of the Czech-speaking lands during the 20th century and before. And the Secretary of State knows very well the role that Woodrow Wilson played in creating the state of Czechloslovakia out of the wreckage of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the Great War.

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Prohibition: The Volstead Act

Prohibition: The Volstead Act

In 1919 the United States was technically still at war because Congress rejected the famed Versailles Treaty, which Wilson had worked so hard to pass. So when the Volstead Act was passed by the House and Senate and set before Wilson in October of 1919, it contained two sections: one that provided for the enforcement of the new Constitutional Amendment, and one that sought to enforce Wartime Prohibition, even though most Americans considered the war over.

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Prohibition: Early Days

Prohibition: Early Days

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, people in the United States drank more than a bottle and a half of hard liquor each week, far more than today. They recognized that drinking added to numerous social problems, and it came to be seen as an enemy to the moral rectitude of the American home.

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Armistice

Armistice

The timing of the end of the war still remained uncertain as the week began, one hundred years ago.  In a letter to his cousin on November 5, Woodrow Wilson wrote, “I am constantly fearful lest mistakes be made in these tremendous matters with which we are dealing, and it is an immense comfort to think of the friends who are helping me with their thoughts and prayers.”

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Final Days

Final Days

One hundred years ago, the American president still faced uncertainties about how the Germans were going to surrender and how the Allied Powers would negotiate the peace. As Woodrow Wilson wrote to one of his advisers, Colonel House, on October 30, 1918, “We are pledged to fight not only to do away with Prussian militarism but with militarism everywhere.” Wilson insisted that any settlement include the establishment of a League of Nations.

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