Friday, October 8, 2010

Celebrating President Woodrow Wilson

Since 1951, the arrowhead has been the official logo of the National Park Service. The Sequoia tree and bison represent natural resources, the mountains and water are emblematic of scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead shape represents historical and archeological resources.

Woodrow Wilson knew the answers to very important questions. What does a world at war need? To where does a nation turn in times of war?

by Luke Phillips
Southeast Community College

Today we live in a connected world and a country at war and can enjoy the benefits of Wilson’s remarkable insight. As I researched Scotts Bluff National Monument I noted Woodrow Wilson’s involvement in the process of preserving the area. I found this to be a curious sidetrack for a man attempting to bring peace to a world at war, so I continued my research to find out why he did so. Having learnt of the praiseworthy achievements of President Wilson, today I show you that he is worthy of ongoing esteem.

He can be admired for many things which he did, but today we will focus on his role in creating world peace in the aftermath of WWI and the creation of the National Park Service which has ensured a lasting comfort for all Americans who have lived in war-ravaged times.

Wilson is most often remembered because of his involvement in creating peace after WWI. It was a defining moment in the history of our world that has had continuing impact. He was a pacifist and thus reluctant to involve the U. S. in WWI (McNeese, 2000).

The war began in 1914 and quickly escalated to include many European countries (McNeese, 2000). The US remained neutral but was compelled to join the war in 1917 as Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant ships (Wilkinson, 2010). Wilson asked the House of Representatives to declare war April 2, 1917, but only in hope of peace. He delivered his Fourteen Points speech January 1918. By the time a ceasefire was declared on November 11, 1918, Wilson’s Fourteen Points were well known by international leaders (McNeese, 2000).

The Fourteen Points threshed out the details of peace and established a “general association of nations… under specific covenants.” Many were compromised in writing the Versailles Treaty (Fourteen Points, 2009). In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed by both sides which officially ended the war and established the League of Nations. The resulting peace was much fairer than the allies wanted because of Wilson’s leadership (McNeese, 2000).

His fourteen points created the League of Nations (McNeese, 2000). The League of Nations was Wilson’s lofty effort at sustaining world peace. World peace is something that we desire but have not yet achieved. Wilson accurately envisioned peace as an ongoing effort. Jackson David quotes Wilson’s attitude towards peace in his 2009 USA Today article Both President and Nobel Laureate: “Mankind has not yet been rid of the unspeakable horror of war… But it is the better part of wisdom to consider our work as one begun. It will be a continuing labor.”

He envisioned the League providing a means to work at peace diplomatically. The League was an abandonment of the traditional balance of power model. Traditionally, war was avoided by maintaining fairly equal alliances. The failure of this system brought about WWI and ensured that many countries would be involved for many years. The League of Nations was modified after WWII and became the United Nations (McNeese, 2000). For his admirable efforts in closing WWI and establishing the League of Nations, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1919 (David, 2009).

Wilson should also be admired for recognizing that Americans at home during wartime need National Parks. He founded the National Park Service which had maintained national treasures for our enjoyment ever since. Throughout recent history we can observe increased focus on NP during wartime (Jarvis, 2001).

T. Jarvis, in his 2001 article Stress Value points out that “we have seen again and again… at times of great stress and universal crisis, Americans flock to their public parks in huge numbers.” The parks provide “active recreation” and “passive contemplation of nature, scenery, or other aspects of our cultural heritage.”

Wilson ratified the Organic Act August 25, 1916 which created the NPS (Winks, 1997). President Lincoln protected the Yosemite Valley in 1864 during the Civil War, and from 1872 on many areas were named NP’s (Jarvis, 2001; Winks, 1997). The act provided funding and the organization’s mandate which has remained unchanged to this day. It provides for the conservation of areas of national worth - while funding access for the public to enjoy them (Winks, 1997). Many Presidents have followed suit. Lyndon Johnson added 64 sites to the NPS during the Vietnam War (Jarvis, 2001).

Wilson was wise to learn from the example of Lincoln, and time has proven his actions to be of incredible worth to Americans in time of war and uncertainty. It is amazing that Wilson was able to achieve this while also working for world peace.

Today I have recognized the achievements of President Wilson and shown you that he is worthy of ongoing esteem. He should be commended for his role in creating a fair peace through the Versailles Treaty and the establishment of the much needed League of Nations, and also for the creation of the NPS in such a critical time in US history. Pay tribute to President Wilson, for he knew what the world and his country needed in a time of war.

David, J. (2009, December, 9). Both president and Nobel laureate. USA Today.
Fourteen points. (2009). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, (1).
Jarvis, T. (2001). Stress value. Parks & Recreation, 36(12), 2.
McNeese, T. (2000). The age of progress. St Louis, MO.: Milliken.
Wilkinson, S. (2010). Killer U-boats. Military History, 27(3), 26-34.
Winks, R. (1997). The National Park Service Act of 1916: ‘A contradictory mandate?’. G. Wright, (Ed.). Retrieved from

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