I recently completed John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s biography of Woodrow Wilson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). Wilson is rather a tragic figure in many ways. His meteoric rise to the office of President is unlikely to be repeated in our era of political intrigue – though there was plenty of that in his own rise to power.
However, what struck me about Wilson’s life was the last segment of his life- his unsuccessful campaign to enlist the support of the United States Senate in his dream oif creating the League of Nations. Cooper writes a compelling – though at times a bit uneven- account of Wilson’s life. If you are interested (like I am) in politics and the history of the US I heartily recommend Cooper’s work. (My goal is to read at least one biography of every US President…I still have a ways to go.)
As Cooper recounts,
On the speaking tour that he would make in September 1919, he would look at the children who flocked to see him and say, “I know, if by chance, we should not win this great fight for the League of Nations, it would be their death warrant.” This was going to be the fight of his life – one that would cost him more dearly that any other and would, if he lost it, be believed, “break the heart of the world.”
Indeed, the failure of the Senate to ratify the treaty that would have created the League of Nations, broke a heart…Wilson’s.
All of us have unfinished business- dreams that we have aspired to, goals we have set, and hopes that have fueled our hearts when times were hard. At what cost will we pursue these dreams, goals, and hopes. Wilson’s pursuit may have cost him his life, and perhaps his reputation. As Cooper closes his work he writes,