Woodrow Wilson
Quotations


One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.

Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions.

Caution is the confidential agent of selfishness.

If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.

Democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles.

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

There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty.

In the Lordís Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.

America is not anything if it consists of each of us. It is something only if it consists of all of us.

Interest does not tie nations together; it sometimes separates them. But sympathy and understanding does unite them.

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.

When I give a man an office, I watch him carefully to see whether he is swelling or growing.

Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.

America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world.

Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting.

Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions.

My dream of politics all my life has been that it is the common business, that it is something we owe to each other to understand and discuss with absolute frankness.

My own ideals for the university are those of a genuine democracy and serious scholarship. These two, indeed, seem to go together.

Neutrality is a negative word. It does not express what America ought to feel. We are not trying to keep out of trouble; we are trying to preserve the foundations on which peace may be rebuilt.

Never murder a man who is committing suicide.

No peace can last, or ought to last, which does not recognize and accept the principle that governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that no right anywhere exists to hand peoples from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were property.

One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.

Only a peace between equals can last.

Our American merchant ships must be protected by our American navy. It can never be doubted that the goods will be delivered by this nation, whose navy believes in the tradition of "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!"

[on world War I] Our whole duty, for the present at any rate, is summed up in this motto: "America first."

Peace like charity begins at home.

People will endure their tyrants for years, but they tear their deliverers to pieces if a millennium is not created immediately.

Politics I conceive to be nothing more than the science of the ordered progress of society along the lines of greatest usefulness and convenience to itself.

Princeton is no longer a thing for Princeton men to please themselves with. Princeton is a thing with which Princeton men must satisfy the country.

Property as compared with humanity, as compared with the red blood in the American people, must take second place, not first place.

Prosperity is necessarily the first theme of a political campaign.

Publicity is one of the purifying elements of politics. Nothing checks all the bad practices of politics like public exposure. An Irishman, seen digging around the wall of a house, was asked what he was doing. He answered, "Faith, I am letting the dark out of the cellar." Now, thatís exactly what we want to do.

Responsibility is proportionate to opportunity.

Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.

So far as the colleges go, the sideshows are swallowing up the circus.

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world.

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

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

The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.

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

The cure for bad politics is the same as the cure for tuberculosis. It is living in the open.

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

The great monopoly in this country is the money monopoly.

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 history of liberty is a history of resistance.

The law that will work is merely the summing up in legislative form of the moral judgment that the community has already reached.

The literary gift is a very dangerous gift to possess if you are not telling the truth, and I would a great deal rather, for my part, have a man stumble in his speech than to feel he was so exceedingly smooth that he had better be watched both day and night.

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

The masters of the government of the United States are the combined capitalists and manufacturers of the United States.

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

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 President is a superior kind of slave, and must content himself with the reflection that the? kind is superior!

The presidential office is not a rosewater affair. This is an office in which a man must put on his war paint.

A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits.

A conservative is one who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt.

A little group of willful men reflecting no opinion but their own have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.

A nation is as great, and only as great, as her rank and file.

A man's rootage is more important than his leafage.

A presidential campaign may easily degenerate into a mere personal contest, and so lose its real dignity. There is no indispensable man.

Absolute identity with one's cause is the first and great condition of successful leadership.

America is not anything if it consists of each of us. It is something only if it consists of all of us.

America is not a mere body of traders; it is a body of free men. Our greatness is built upon our freedom -- is moral, not material. We have a great ardor for gain; but we have a deep passion for the rights of man.

America lives in the heart of every man everywhere who wishes to find a region where he will be free to work out his destiny as he chooses.

America was established not to create wealth but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal -- to discover and maintain liberty among men.

As compared with the college politician, the real article seems like an amateur.

At every crisis in one's life, it is absolute salvation to have some sympathetic friend to whom you can think aloud without restraint or misgiving.

Business underlies everything in our national life, including our spiritual life. Witness the fact that in the Lord's Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.

By "radical" I understand one who goes too far; by "conservativeĒ one who does not go far enough; by "reactionary" one who wonít go at all. I suppose I must be a "progressive," which I take to be one who insists on recognizing new facts, adjusting policies to facts and circumstances as they arise.

Caution is the confidential agent of selfishness.

Character is a by-product; it is produced in the great manufacture of daily duty.

Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.

Democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles.

Every man who takes office in Washington either grows or swells, and when I give a man an office, I watch him carefully to see whether he is swelling or growing. The mischief of it is that when they swell, they do not swell enough to burst.

Generally young men are regarded as radicals. This is a popular misconception. The most conservative persons I ever met are college undergraduates. The radicals are the men past middle life.

Golf is a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose.

He is not a true man of the world who knows only the present fashions of it.

High society is for those who have stopped working and no longer have anything important to do.

Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness, and all the ugly distempers that make an ordered life impossible.

I am not one of those who believe that a great standing army is the means of maintaining peace, because if you build up a great profession those who form parts of it want to exercise their profession.

I am not sure that it is of the first importance that you should be happy. Many an unhappy man has been of deep service to himself and to the world.

I had rather have everybody on my side than be armed to the teeth.

I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.

I have always summed up for myself individual liberty and business liberty and every other kind of liberty in the phrase that is common in the sporting world -- "A free field and no favor.

I have come slowly into possession of such powers as I have. I receive the opinions of my day. I do not conceive them. But I receive them into a vivid mind.

I have long enjoyed the friendship and companionship of Republicans because I am by instinct a teacher, and I would like to teach them something.

I have sometimes heard men say politics must have nothing to do with business, and I have often wished that business had nothing to do with politics.

I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.

I will not speak with disrespect of the Republican Party. I always speak with respect of the past.

I would never read a book if it were at all possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.

I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.

I would rather lose in a cause that will someday win, than win in a cause that will someday lose.

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.

If I cannot retain my moral influence over a man except by occasionally knocking him down, if that is the only basis upon which he will respect me, then for the sake of his soul I have got occasionally to knock him down.

If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it.

If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself.

If you think too much about being reelected, it is very difficult to be worth reelecting.

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig.

If you would be a leader of men, you must lead your own generation, not the next.

In the Lordís Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.

Interest does not tie nations together; it sometimes separates them. But sympathy and understanding does unite them.

It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.

It is not men that interest or disturb me primarily; it is ideas. Ideas live; men die.

[on the presidency] It requires the constitution of an athlete, the patience of a mother, the endurance of the early Christian.

It's harder for a leader to be born in a palace than to be born in a cabin.

Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is a practical document for the use of practical men. It is not a thesis for philosophers, but a whip for tyrants; it is not a theory of government but a program of action.

Justice has nothing to do with expediency. Justice has nothing to do with any temporary standard whatever. It is rooted and grounded in the fundamental instincts of humanity.

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.

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 seed of revolution is repression.

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 use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.

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.

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 has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great. Our thought has been "Let every man look out for himself, let every generation look out for itself," while we reared giant machinery which made it impossible that any but those who stood at the levers of control should have any chance to look out for themselves.

There is little for the great part of the history of the world except the bitter tears of pity and the hot tears of wrath.

There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.

There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect.

There is here a great melting pot in which we must compound a precious metal. That metal is the metal of nationality.

There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty.

There is something better, if possible, that a man can give than his life. That is his living spirit to a service that is not easy, to resist counsels that are hard to resist, to stand against purposes that are difficult to stand against.

Things get very lonely in Washington sometimes. The real voice of the great people of America sometimes sounds faint and distant in that strange city. You hear politics until you wish that both parties were smothered in their own gas.

Uncompromising thought is the luxury of the closeted recluse.

We are citizens of the world; and the tragedy of our times is that we do not know this.

We are constantly thinking of the great war . . . which saved the Union . . . but it was a war that did a great deal more than that. It created in this country what had never existed before -- a national consciousness. It was not the salvation of the Union, it was the rebirth of the Union.

We have not given science too big a place in our education, but we have made a perilous mistake in giving it too great a preponderance in method in every other branch of study.

What we seek is the reign of law, based upon the consent of the governed and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind.

Whatever may be said against the chewing of tobacco, this at least can be said of it, that it gives a man time to think between sentences.

When I give a man an office, I watch him carefully to see whether he is swelling or growing.

When the representatives of "Big Business" think of the people, they do not include themselves.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.

You cannot, in human experience, rush into the light. You have to go through the twilight into the broadening day before the noon comes and the full sun is upon the landscape.

You must act in your friend's interest whether it pleases him or not; the object of love is to serve, not to win.



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