WoodrowWilson was the 28th President of the United States from 1913-1921and is best known for his legislative accomplishments and idealism. Born in Virginia to Scotch-Irishimmigrants,Wilson was the only other president at the time to have foreign-born parents; Andrew Jackson being the first. Struggling with dyslexia and a latestart at learning how to read, Wilson persevered and attended Princeton University in1875.
Wilson’s interest in politics grewduring his time at Princeton and after his graduation in 1879 led to hisstudying of law at the University of Virginia; however, after two years Wilson wouldswitch to Johns Hopkins University where he would eventually earn a PhD inGovernment.Before presidency,Wilson taught history and political science at Bryn Mawr College, Wesleyan University, and Princeton. By 1902, Wilson was president of Princetonand worked towards adopting several policies and reforms for both undergraduateand graduate studies at the university; one could say his small role aspresident of the ivy league helped shape how he would eventually take on thecountry when becoming President in 1913. In between his time as universitypresident and United States President, Wilson successfully ran for thegovernor of New Jersey in 1910.
His campaign for governorship was progressive for itstime and can be attributed to how he won the spot in office. His ideas about parliamentarypractices and reforms during his time as governor were what got him national recognitionto be a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. The 1912 convention was aninteresting one because of how the votes were split among parties; from former President TheodoreRoosevelt to the Bull Moose Party split, Wilson struggled in the three-wayrace.
However, this split factor played in favorfor Wilson and allowed him to win with a 42% of the popular vote and anelectoral college landslide of 435 votes. Wilson had campaigned for his newidea of “New Freedom” and was the first Southern-born President elected sincethe Civil War. Wilson truly favored parliamentarystyle ruling,as seen with his previous research and published works and fully intended toattempt to conduct his presidency as such. He often had legislative programs writtenwell in advance,was one of the first presidents to appear before Congress in person, and for the most majority workeddirectly through his party. Wilson’s time in office was spent using unconventionalmethods never seen before from a president, however his approach was widelypraised as he had many victories with passages of bills and reforms startingfrom the very beginning of his time in office. One of Wilson’s most successfulpassages was the 1913 act that created the Federal Reserve System, one of the most powerful agenciesin economic affairs. Wilson’s high-minded idealism wasstrongly seen from the start of his presidency at Princeton through his time inoffice and well after.Wilson wanted to better the economy and the country in several ways andstrained to stay neutral during WWI, however the escalation of Germanwarfare left Wilson with no other option but to declare war in April 1917.
Wilson’s leadership of himself andthe country led many others looking to him for help and hope during WWI. Wilson’s 14 Points Address in 1918is believed to have led to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the signingof the Versailles Treaty with Germany. Wilson’s time in office was unableto extend for a reelection due to a stroke he suffered during his travels andstress of the Paris Peace Conference.
Wilson’s legacy after the tragic endto his presidency transformed American foreign policy from isolation tointernationalism.Modern presidency is derived from his ability to shape and mobilize publicopinion and from successfully reforming the Democratic Party. Impact from Wilson’s time aspresident could be seen through the decades—even until today—through the programmodeled for the New Deal from Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression inthe 1930s to the mobilization policies used during WWII. Wilson’s speeches are what trulydefined the American presidency. Apart from changing foreign policies, Wilson also tried to abandonimperialist policies;something that can be seen attempted later on by future presidents.
However, Wilson’s presidency didn’t alwayshave positive impacts on the country. His commitment toself-determination had negative aspects, including the invasion andoccupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. His lack of toleration during thewar led to violations against Americans’ civil liberties because of his need tobe victorious.
Some of Wilson’s achievements are also overshadowed by his openly positivesupport towards segregation, leaving a taint on his record.Wilsons time aspresident can still be felt until this day, both the positive and negativeoutcomes. He changed the two major politicalparties in the United States and changed just how exactly Americans view thepresident,his role in government,and the countries role in the world.