Skip To Content
Woodrow Wilson poster image
Aired January 6, 2002

Woodrow Wilson

From the Collection: The Presidents

Film Description

On November 5, 1912, holed up in his home in Princeton, New Jersey, a former college professor and university president eagerly awaited the results of the nation's presidential elections. He read Browning to his family to pass the time. Late in the evening, a mad ringing of bells brought the news he wanted to hear. He, Thomas Woodrow Wilson was to be the 28th president of the United States. Soon swarms of people invaded his yard. "Swaying torches made grotesque circles of light," his daughter remembered. "He was no longer my father," she wrote. "These people, strangers who had chosen him to be their leader, now claimed him. He belonged to them." 

Woodrow Wilson explores the life of a political figure now widely considered one of the greatest Democratic presidents in American history. The film paints a vivid portrait of a complex man, a great orator and analytical thinker who was both emotionally dependent and physically fragile. It chronicles the major achievements and failings of Wilson's life. And it reveals what drove him to the decisions that defined his presidency -- the announcement of American involvement in World War I and his dogged support of the League of Nations, his advocacy on behalf of labor, yet his reluctance to advance the cause of African American civil rights or women's suffrage. 

Ironically, the future president showed little promise in his youth. He was an average student and a directionless young man. He studied law, but found the work of an attorney unappealing. It was, he said, all "broken promises, wrecked estates, neglected trusts, unperformed duties, crimes, and quarrels." It wasn't until Wilson returned to school to study politics that he found his vocation. 

With a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University and a young wife he adored, Wilson accepted a position at Princeton University. He prospered as a teacher, giving lectures around the country and developing a public persona that was articulate, scholarly and urbane. Over the next 25 years he was named president of Princeton, elected governor of New Jersey, and chosen by the American people as their president. 

Aloof and restrained in public, Wilson obscured a passionate private side. He cherished his first and second wives dearly, but nonetheless was unfaithful. He made the women in his life his confidantes and relied on them more than he should. When his first wife Ellen died, Wilson was devastated. "Oh my God," he whispered at her deathbed, "What am I to do?" Just a year later, he was secretly courting a 42-year-old widow, Edith Bolling Galt. They carried out a secret romance and, though they lived just blocks apart, Wilson sent his future wife frequent love letters, some 20 pages long. 

Wilson was at his most visionary in his plans for a new world order after World War I. His call for a just and lasting peace, though largely ignored, was farsighted. And his concept of a League of Nations was decades before its time. It was while vigorously campaigning for the doomed organization that Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke. The President's inner circle wouldn't acknowledge Wilson's grave disability, allowing his wife Edith to effectively take over as chief executive. 

In his final years, Wilson refused to admit he was a spent force. He thought to run for a third term, but his doctor advised that he was "permanently incapacitated and gradually weakening mentally." In spite of his failings and his reluctance to leave the political spotlight, Wilson left behind a profound legacy. "For better or worse," historian John Milton Cooper argues, "Wilson really set the course of American domestic and foreign policy for the rest of the century." 

Cast & Crew

Part 1: Woodrow Wilson: A Passionate Man

Directed by    
Carl Byker and Mitch Wilson

Written by     
Carl Byker & David Mrazek

Cinematography by   
Mitch Wilson

Produced by   
Carl Byker, David Mrazek and Isaac Mizrahi

Narrated by   
Linda Hunt

Voices
Woodrow Wilson       
Rene Auberjonois
Ellen Wilson   
Blair Brown
Nellie Wilson 
Laura Linney
Ray Baker       
Eric Stoltz

Co-Produced by
John Mora
Teresa Fitzgerald
Richard Kassebaum

Production Coordinator
Jack Combs

Edited by
Isaac Mizrahi

Music by
David Vanacore and Victor Vanacore

Sound by
Tom Huth and Scott Kolben

Costume Designer  
Shura Pollatsek

Production Manager      
Bettina Bennewitz

Production Assistant
Katrin Frye

Motion Control Camera
Rusty Colby

Legal Advisors                                    
Susan Reardon
Jennifer Richmond

Rights and Clearances                          
Yvonne Johnson

Chief Historian
John Milton Cooper

Academic Advisors
John Morton Blum
Victoria Bissell Brown
Michael Kazin
David Kennedy
Thomas Knock
Walter LaFeber
John Mulder
Ronald Schaffer
John Thompson
Jay Winter

Actors
Peter Parks
Carol Conway
Theresa Della Valle
Sharon Alsina
Jackson Kent
Maria Galante
Marticia Palmer
Lawrece Hudd

Additional Voice
Dan Woren

Special Thanks
Princeton University/Conference Services
Woodrow Wilson House Museum - Washington D.C.
Woodrow Wilson House - Augusta, GA
Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum - Staunton, VA
First Presbyterian Church, Augusta GA
The Drumthwacket Foundation
Elbow Beach Hotel, Bermuda
Newstead Hotel, Bermuda
Bermuda Department of Tourism 
Hillmont House
Pasadena Masonic Temple
Bonnie Nelson
Carol Ovacy and Fred Hoch
The 1st Independent Brigade Civil War Reenactors
Lawrenceville School
Edward Nescott
The Ovation Singers - Staunton, VA

Film Footage and Still Photographs provided by
The WPA Film Library
UCLA Film and Television Archive
Historic Films
Getty Images
John E. Allen , Inc.
Imperial War Museum
Museum of the City of New York
Princeton University
Historic Augusta
Culver Pictures
Brown Brothers
Harpweek LLC
Woodrow Wilson House Museum
The Newark Public Library, Newark, New Jersey
Collection Bermuda Archives
The Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland
Corbis Images
Eugene V. Debs Foundation
Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts

KCET Production Executive
Joyce Campbell

KCET Executive in Charge
Mary Mazur

For AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Post Production
James E. Dunford
Rose Compagine
Greg Shea

Series Designer
Alison Kennedy

On-line Editor
Mark Steele

Sound Mix
John Jenkins

Series Theme
Mark Adler

Business Manager
John Van Hagen

Project Administration
Nancy Farrell
Vanessa Ruiz
Helen R. Russell
Rebekah Suggs

Director, New Media
Maria Daniels

Interactive Media
Danielle Dell'Olio

Publicity
Daphne B. Noyes
Johanna Baker

Coordinating Producer
Susan Mottau

Series Editor
Sharon Grimberg

Senior Producer
Mark Samels

Executive Producer    
Margaret Drain

A KCET Hollywood Production in association with Red Hill Productions
for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

(c)  2002 WGBH Educational Foundation and Community Television of Southern California
All Rights Reserved

Part 2: Woodrow Wilson: The Redemption of the World

Directed by    
Carl Byker and Mitch Wilson

Written by     
Carl Byker & David Mrazek

Cinematography by   
Mitch Wilson

Produced by   
Carl Byker, David Mrazek and Richard Kassebaum

Narrated by   
Linda Hunt

Voices
Woodrow Wilson       
Rene Auberjonois
Edith Wilson  
Marion Ross
Ray Baker       
Eric Stoltz

Co-Produced by 
John Mora
Teresa Fitzgerald

Production Coordinator
Jack Combs

Edited by
Victor Livingston
Isaac Mizrahi

Music by
David Vanacore and Victor Vanacore

Sound by
Tom Huth and Scott Kolben

Costume Designer 
Shura Pollatsek

Production Manager      
Bettina Bennewitz

Production Assistant
Katrin Frye

Motion Control Camera
Rusty Colby

Legal Advisors
Susan Reardon
Jennifer Richmond

Rights and Clearances                          
Yvonne Johnson

Chief Historian
John Milton Cooper

Academic Advisors
John Morton Blum
Victoria Bissell Brown
Michael Kazin
David Kennedy
Thomas Knock
Walter La Feber
John Mulder
Ronald Schaffer
John Thompson
Jay Winter

Actors 
Peter Parks
Ginnine Cocuzza
Kurt McCortney
William Hartson
Charles Sammarco
Lawrence Hudd

Additional Voices
Wally Burr
Steve Kramer

Special Thanks
Princeton University / Conference Services
Woodrow Wilson House Museum - Washington D.C.
Woodrow Wilson House - Augusta, GA
Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum - Staunton, VA
The Drumthwacket Foundation
Bermuda Department of Tourism
Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial,
The American Battle Monuments Commission 
Hillmont House
Pasadena Masonic Temple
French National Film Commission
Bonnie Nelson
Durango and Silverton Railroad
San Diego Railroad Museum
Estate of Ike Hoover 
Edward Nescott
The Ovation Singers - Staunton, VA

Film Footage and Still Photographs provided by
Budget Films
F.I.L.M. Archives
Historic Films
Getty Images
Imperial War Museum
John E. Allen, Inc.
Producers Library Service
The WPA Film Library
UCLA Film and Television Archive
The Newark Public Library, Newark, New Jersey
Princeton University
Woodrow Wilson House Museum
Corbis Images
Culver Pictures
Dan Quayle Museum
Eugene V. Debs Foundation
Brown Brothers
Imperial War Museum

KCET Production Executive
Joyce Campbell

KCET Executive in Charge
Mary Mazur

For AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Post Production
James E. Dunford
Rose Compagine
Greg Shea

Series Designer
Alison Kennedy

On-line Editor
Mark Steele

Sound Mix
John Jenkins

Series Theme
Mark Adler

Business Manager
John Van Hagen

Project Administration
Nancy Farrell
Vanessa Ruiz
Helen R. Russell
Rebekah Suggs

Director, New Media
Maria Daniels

Interactive Media
Danielle Dell'Olio

Publicity
Daphne B. Noyes
Johanna Baker

Coordinating Producer
Susan Mottau

Series Editor
Sharon Grimberg

Senior Producer
Mark Samels

Executive Producer    
Margaret Drain

A KCET Hollywood Production in association with Red Hill Productions
for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

(c)  2002 WGBH Educational Foundation and Community Television of Southern California
All Rights Reserved

Transcript

Part 1: A Pssionate Man

Narrator
On an afternoon in the spring of 1920, Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, was led through the White House. Wilson had suffered a devastating stroke. 

Narrator
On an afternoon in the spring of 1920, Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, was led through the White House. Wilson had suffered a devastating stroke. 

Unable to perform his duties, the President instead spent his time watching old newsreels that the secret service screened for him and friends like journalist Ray Baker. 

Historian: Ray Stannard Baker
The moving picture machine behind us began to click and sputter. With the first brilliantly lighted episode, we were in another world. There we were, sailing grandly into the harbor at Brest. There was the President himself, smiling upon the bridge. By magic, we were transported to Paris. There he was again, driving down the most famous avenue in the world. And there was the President at Buckingham Palace with the King of England. 

Narrator
The newsreels were testimony to the man Wilson had once been. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper 
Well I think there's no question that he was one of the five greatest Presidents in American history. He has that rare combination, which he shares with, certainly with Jefferson and with Lincoln. That is he was a tremendously effective, practical politician, and a very deep thinker. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Woodrow Wilson laid out the contours of American foreign policy that has been followed for better or worse ever since. Every president since has to one degree or another been a Wilsonian. 

Narrator
Wilson seemed cold and aloof in public, but in private he was deeply emotional. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
Wilson really needed a companion, and a lover. The relationship between Ellen and Woodrow is probably the most romantic in Presidential history. 

Author: Betty Boyd Caroli
He was very academic, those steel-rimmed glasses, he always seemed very serious, but he was an extremely passionate person. 

Narrator
He cultivated a reputation as an intellectual who relied on hard facts, but Wilson's greatest source of guidance was his faith. 

Historian: Louis Auchincloss
He believed that he was directed by God and he frequently said so. He thought that God had made him president of the United States. 

Narrator
And yet the most important mission of Wilson's life, creating a League of Nations to spread democracy, ended in failure. 

Historian: Jay Winter
He was a man who believed in this extraordinarily difficult goal and when he knew that he wouldn't get there the moment must have been devastating for him. 

Narrator
It was during his fight for the league, that Wilson suffered the debilitating stroke. From that moment on, it was Wilson's wife who secretly performed many of the duties of the President. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
No one really knew what was going on. The word stroke was never mentioned. Certainly the word paralyzed was never mentioned. And the American public was kept effectively in the dark 

Narrator
On the banks of the Savannah River lies Augusta, Georgia. The night of May 14th, 1865, the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was brought through the town in chains, on his way to a Union prison. Many townspeople turned out to witness the somber spectacle. One was an eight year-old boy named Thomas Woodrow Wilson. 

No event dominated Wilson's childhood like the Civil War. Nearly every family he knew had a relative killed or wounded. Now, as the president of the confederacy rolled past, crushed and defeated, young Tommy and everyone else who watched knew that life in the South could never be the same. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
The South, when Wilson was a boy, was the only part of the United States which has ever had a modern war. A modern total war. It had been ruined. The social structure had been just totally overturned. It's a completely overturned world. And especially for white folks, for better off white people, like the Wilson's, they've got to find a new way. 

Narrator
In a land in ruins, the one institution left to pick up the pieces was the church. Tommy's father, Joseph Wilson, was a preacher at one of the most prominent congregations in the South. 

Joseph Ruggles Wilson Come with me now, to lift up, after my manner, the fallen. Let us reinstate the righteous rule of the Father throughout the broken and disordered race to which you and I both belong. 

Narrator
Joseph Wilson was a Presbyterian, who taught his son that God had put Christians into the world not to withdraw from it, but to make it a better place. He told Tommy that God wanted him to work tirelessly to help rebuild a country devastated by war. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Growing up with a, a Presbyterian father would give a boy a sense that goodness isn't something that you measure in terms of your own personal behavior alone. Wilson's father would give him an idea that the true test was making the world a place where justice, where goodness had a better and bigger place than it had before he came on the scene. It's a difficult matter to live with, but it's one that once you get the stamp in your childhood you never lose it for the rest of your life. 

Narrator
For all of his father's expectations, Tommy Wilson was not a promising student. At the age of ten, he still could not read. Some put it down to laziness, others to a lack of intelligence. But the real reason was far more complicated. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
As near as we can tell, young Tommy Wilson suffered from a form of dyslexia. Probably a mild form. And this is something that nobody knew existed in those days, the term wouldn't be, wouldn't even be coined until the middle of the Twentieth Century. Here's this difficulty, a lot of people in the family thought he was kind of slow, that this was not a very bright boy. 

Narrator
"He was not like other boys," one neighbor said, "he had a queer way of going off alone." 

With few friends, Tommy was deeply dependent on his relationship with his parents. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
His father never lost faith in him. It's very interesting. His father stuck with him. I think that may have had a lot to do with his being able to overcome dyslexia. 

Narrator
Joseph Wilson was determined to compensate for his son's inability to read. He spent hour after hour with Tommy, drilling him in the art of debate and teaching him to perform the speeches of great orators like Daniel Webster. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
His father was very important in directing Wilson towards serious use of English, with picking the precise word, speaking with eloquence, turning his attention to persuading people of his own ideas. And it was that kind of thing that captured the boy's fancy. 

Narrator
His mother, Jessie, came from the Woodrows of Ohio, a well-educated, socially prominent family. Jessie did everything in her power to convince her son that he was capable of living up to the Woodrow family name. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Tommy was Jessie Woodrow Wilson's favorite among all her children and she gave him a kind of supportive, uncritical love that I think made him strong and self-confident. For some reason or other, from a very, very early age, this is a person of tremendous self-confidence. 

Narrator
When he was 16, Tommy heard about a new invention called shorthand. It was a way to bypass reading by using a "code" to record ideas on paper. Wilson practiced day after day until he had mastered it. With the boost shorthand gave his grades, he managed to gain admission to Princeton, one of the top schools in the country. 

Tommy remained a slow reader. But he excelled in the areas where his real skills lay. He joined the debate team and after one victory, wrote to his father, "I have made a discovery, I have found that I have a mind. 

Yet anyone observing Tommy Wilson would have thought he was majoring in baseball. As a boy he had written a detailed rulebook for the game. Now, he organized a pickup team called "The Bowery Boys." The boys played baseball every single day of the week, and sometimes twice. 

Wilson's other passion was politics. He often got into arguments with his classmates over the legacy of the civil war. He believed it was time to withdraw northern troops and give control of the region back to white southerners. 

"One night we sat up 'till dawn talking about it," a northern classmate said, "he taking the Southern side and getting quite bitter." Wilson wrote his parents that the taunts from northerners made him so angry he wanted to physically attack them. 

The intense debates stoked Tommy's interest in a career in politics. He drilled himself daily in the art of oratory, so that, as he put it, "I would be able to lead others into my way of thinking." 

Historian: John Morton Blum
Why did Wilson pick on politics and government? Well it was because he dreamed of becoming a major statesman, using politics to gain office and using office to persuade men about how to live and order their lives. 

Narrator
To appear more distinguished, he began using his middle name, Woodrow, instead of Tommy. He even began handing out calling cards that said Woodrow Wilson, Senator. 

Woodrow Wilson The first time I saw your face was in church one morning , in April, wasn't it? I remember thinking, "What a bright pretty face! What splendid laughing eyes! I'll lay a wager that this demure little lady has lots of life and fun in her! 

Narrator
At 26, while attending church in Rome, Georgia, Wilson's eyes alighted on Ellen Axson, a minister's daughter. 

Ellen was highly intelligent and a talented artist, whose work had won a medal at an exhibition in Paris. 

Painting was a refuge from the harsh realities of her life. When Ellen was 21, her mother died, leaving her to care for 3 younger siblings. Then her father, who suffered from manic depression, was confined to a mental hospital, where he committed suicide. 

All the while, Ellen clung to her dream of establishing an art school for women, which would enable her both to earn a living and pursue her art. 

Ellen Axson It is possible that my talent for art, combined with my talent for work, might, after many years, win me a place among the first rank of American artists. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Well one of the things that amazes me most about Ellen Wilson was not just that she seems to have been an outstanding artist, even as a young woman, but she had the independence to follow up on it. She entered juried shows, she was represented by one of the outstanding agents in New York City. Her work was acquired by some of the outstanding museums in the country. And her oils of landscapes are outstanding I think. "Autumn" is the one that most people talk about. Even at the time that Woodrow met her, she certainly understood that she had artistic potential. 

Narrator
A cousin said that if Ellen ever married, the man would probably be of no consequence, since smart men were rarely interested in women who were their intellectual equals. 

But Woodrow Wilson was eager for the love and support of a strong woman like Ellen - and he began revealing a side of himself to her that few people ever saw. 

Historian: Louis Auchincloss
Wilson very definitely gave the impression of being a cold fish, but he was a deeply passionate man. He was passionate in his relationship with women. He was passionate in his relationship with his god. All that came from a kind of much repressed but inward highly burning fire. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Far from being a cold fish, far from being a, a thinking machine as he once joked that people thought he was, this was a very warm, passionate, in some ways hot man. I mean, he liked women, very, very much indeed. 

Narrator
Wilson launched an all-out campaign to win Ellen's love. When she went to New York to paint, he wrote her letters nearly every day. 

Woodrow Wilson Soon, I will come myself, to claim you, to take possession of you-of all the time and love you can give me; to take you in my arms and hold you. I tremble with a deep excitement when I think of it. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
The letters he was writing to her were, were just filled with his love you know, with poetry, with expressions of how much she meant to him. It must have been, it must have swept her off her feet. 

Narrator
In Woodrow, Ellen saw not only passion but ambition. Here was a young man who was determined to go places and she wanted to go with him. 

Ellen Axson Suppose, it were as great a sacrifice to give up my art as even you imagine, my darling must know that it would be a pitiable price to pay for such a love as his. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
In the time that Ellen Wilson married Woodrow, that's what a woman did. A woman who married put all of her energy to making a home for him, to making him happy, and Woodrow took a lot of work. He was a very demanding husband. 

Narrator
Ten months after they were married, Ellen gave birth to a daughter, Margaret. Jessie and Nellie soon followed. Besides caring for her daughters, Ellen focused on Woodrow's career. From the start of their courtship, she had known of his dream of winning political office. But she also knew that it would be hard for a would-be politician to support a family. 

The couple agreed that Woodrow should become a professor, instead. Wilson enrolled in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University. When his doctoral thesis was published it received glowing reviews in newspapers across the country. 

America's federal government was dangerously weak, Wilson argued, and needed to be strengthened. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
He got fascinated with, how do politics really work, that was his one subject entirely, throughout his life was how does power really work and in turn, how can I wield it. Wilson wanted to wield power. 

Narrator
When he was just 33, Wilson was offered a full professorship at his alma mater, Princeton. He became an enormously popular teacher-in seven out of eight years, he was voted favorite professor. "We came into contact with a mind rich with knowledge," one student said. "No one could touch him as a lecturer." 

At the end of his classes, Wilson was often given a standing ovation. 

Professor Wilson lectures addressed the growing gap between the have's and the have-nots in America in the early 1890's. Captains of industry like the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Morgans had become fabulously wealthy, while the majority of American workers lived in poverty. 

Wilson was deeply influenced by a book of photographs by Jacob Riis, titled "How The Other Half Lives." Riis' photographs had created a national sensation, by exposing the squalor in which many Americans lived. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
There had been economic and political inequity in this country certainly since the Civil War. The depression of 1894 however brought to the fore in glaring terms the level of inequity that existed. When you have a depression in which 20% of the American people are unemployed, thousands of businesses are going under, thousands of banks are going under, you have to begin to question whether this corporate elite is really running the show in the most equitable and wise fashion. 

Narrator
Across the nation, rapidly growing populist and socialist movements were demanding real change. But the corporate elite refused to budge. Open warfare between strikers and union busters threatened to shut down factories and coal mines. Many feared that the nation was about to descend into chaos. 

Professor Wilson was one of the few who had a practical solution: give America's government new power to rein in big business. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
He came to the conclusion, that the government of the United States really did have to respond to these problems. That there was a kind of social compact between the people and the government, and working people were "the people." He was a bit fearful, also, that if neither of the major parties responded more forthrightly, then we were asking for bigger trouble down the road. If you didn't let some steam out at the pot, it's going to blow up in your face. 

Narrator
Wilson articles in magazines like Harper's attracted nationwide attention and offers speak to political clubs and civic organizations began to pour in. 

Woodrow Wilson Modern industry has so distorted competition as to put it into the power of some to tyrannize over many and enable the rich and strong to combine against the poor and weak. 

Historian: Louis Auchincloss
He apparently had an extraordinary effect on audiences. And his voice was powerful and very moving. And I think when he spoke he put his whole heart and soul into it, enjoyed it very much. I think he's probably at his best when he spoke. 

Narrator
Soon, a buzz began to spread about the eloquent Mr. Wilson. Before long, he was the most famous man at Princeton. Few were surprised when, at 46, he was named president of the college. 

But Joseph Wilson believed that God had even greater plans for his son. "This is only the beginning of a very great career," he told all who would listen. 

The family settled into the President's house at Princeton. Soon after, Joseph Wilson moved in, too. Each evening, Woodrow regaled his father with stories from his day and sought his advice. 

Then, suddenly, Joseph became seriously ill. Woodrow spent every moment he could with him and sang him to sleep each night. On January 21st, 1903 Joseph Wilson died. 

Woodrow Wilson It has quite taken the heart out of me to lose my life-long friend and companion. He is gone and a great loneliness is in my heart. No generation ahead of me now! I am in the firing line. 

Narrator
The family would soon suffer another loss. When Ellen's youngest brother Eddie was ten, he had come to live with Woodrow and Ellen and they came to think of him as the son they never had. In the spring of 1905, Eddie, his wife and young son drowned. 

Woodrow turned to his faith to see him through the loss. But Ellen was by nature more introspective - and she could not make sense out of a god who would allow such horrible things to happen. 

Eddie's death sent Ellen into a long and deep depression. Woodrow found Ellen's dark mood disconcerting and urged her to begin painting again. But even her art could not brighten Ellen's disposition. 

Ellen Wilson I cannot somehow shake off for a moment the weight it has laid upon my spirits, all the more so perhaps because, for Woodrow's sake, I must not show it. He is almost terribly dependent on me to keep up his spirits and to "rest" him, as he says. If I become just for a moment blue, then he becomes blue black. 

Narrator
As a girl, Ellen had been devastated by her father's depression. For the sake of her own daughters, she began making every effort to resume a normal life. 

During his early years as President of Princeton, Wilson continued to receive invitations from around the nation to speak about political reform. "He was time and again overwhelmed with applause," the Baltimore Sun wrote, " and had to wait until the clapping ceased to be heard again." 

Harper's Monthly declared that Wilson was a man the nation would do well to pay attention to. By any measure, the Princeton President's star was on the rise. 

Then, on the morning of May 28, 1906, the Wilson household was thrown into panic. Woodrow awoke to discover that that he had lost sight in one eye. Ellen rushed him to the hospital, where doctors discovered that the blood vessels behind Wilson's left eye had hemorrhaged. 

Back home, Nellie and her sisters waited anxiously for news of their father's condition. 

Nellie Wilson We were at the door waiting when they returned. Father was calm, but after one look at mother's face, we knew that something dreadful had happened. Not until father had gone upstairs did she tell us that the doctor's verdict was that he must give up all his work and live a retired life. Worst of all, there was no assurance that he would ever again regain his health completely. It is impossible to describe the panic and despair that engulfed us. 

Narrator
The hemorrhage had been caused by a severe case of hypertension or high blood pressure. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
Here is a man who's 49 years old, relatively young, who already has a, an advanced disease. By the time we reach 1906 this disease process has already been ongoing for at least a decade. Simply because you don't get this type of finding unless the disease has been hanging around for a long time. The problem is that it then begins to affect other organ systems. If it's left untreated, you're talking about the heart, the kidneys and most significantly the brain. And the potential for that is catastrophic ultimately. 

Narrator
In 1906, the only known treatment for hypertension was rest. His doctor recommended that Wilson retire if he wished to live. 

Wilson decided to take a leave from Princeton and go to Britain to recuperate. He began a strict regime of exercise, walking farther and farther each day until he was hiking up to 14 miles across the English countryside. With his sight returned and his health improved, he began to ponder his faith and his future. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
The Presbyterian faith meant a great deal to Wilson from the time that he was first conscious of an idea through the rest of his life. He was a Calvinist in fact. And always a Calvinist, secure in the knowledge that he was one of the elect one of God's agents, he thought, on this earth. 

Narrator
By the end of his stay in Britain, Wilson had become convinced that he had not yet fulfilled God's plan for him. He decided that he would devote himself to transforming Princeton, even if it meant risking his health. 

Woodrow Wilson College should not be-as many think it is-a playground for the sons of very rich men, for they are not as apt to form definite and serious purposes, as are those who know they must whet their whits for the struggle of life. 

Narrator
With the rise of a new class of fabulously wealthy Americans, Princeton had become a place where the sons of the rich could gain a bit of culture, without having to expend too much effort-a kind of country club. 

Now, Wilson wanted to change all that. He proposed building a world-class graduate school in the center of campus to train the next generation of American leaders. 

To help attract serious scholars, he planned to abolish Princeton's fraternity like eating-clubs, filled with the schools richest and laziest students. 

But Princeton's wealthy alumni were outraged by Wilson's attacks on their son's beloved clubs and threatened to withhold their donations. 

Rather than try to work out a compromise, Wilson declared war. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
Wilson had never found opposition easy to handle. He had this extraordinary confidence that his was the right, that he was the special vehicle of the Lord, that he spoke the truth, so that opposition became almost in that definition sacrilegious. 

Historian: Jay Winter
After all Calvinism was based upon a hatred of the gaudy riches and laziness of the Catholic church. None of that for Woodrow Wilson at Princeton. Wilson's education was moral as much as it was intellectual. 

Narrator
Over the next four years, Wilson spent a great deal of time fighting the alumni, but little time building the support he needed. Eventually, his graduate school was built, but far from the main campus. The "upper-crust" eating clubs remained at the center of university social life. 

Gradually, Wilson came to bitterly resent those who had opposed him. 

Woodrow Wilson Certainly this is the same place to a stick that I knew four years ago, but I have changed much more than it has. I am constantly confronted by specimens of the sort I like least: restless, rich, empty-headed people. I am glad to see them disappear into the distance, but very resentful that I must have their dust in my nostrils. They and their kind are my worst enemies. 

Narrator
Wilson became so frustrated that he began to think the time had come to leave Princeton and the job that had suited him so well. 

Ellen Wilson was responsible for a household of ten at Princeton - including her own daughters, a niece of Woodrow's and her own adult sister and brother. Her brother Stockton was the most demanding, for he suffered from the family curse of manic depression. 

During one of Stockton's breakdowns, Ellen revealed her burdens to a friend. 

Ellen Wilson I used to think it didn't matter if you gave way, if no one knew. But now, I do not dare to give way a minute. Both Stockton and Woodrow need me to be strong all the time. 

Narrator
But the wear and tear of always needing to be strong for others made it difficult for Ellen to be the lively companion that Woodrow craved. 

To keep her husband happy, she began staging parties where Woodrow could banter with her more spirited female friends. But for Woodrow, Ellen's parties were not enough. 

He decided to take a break from his battles at Princeton and go to Bermuda. Ellen stayed home to look after Stockton and her daughters. 

In Bermuda, Wilson met a witty, outgoing socialite named Mary Peck. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Woodrow Wilson was an academic with a Ph.D., who was used to being around academics, and politicians. And in walks Mary Peck, who's vivacious, beautiful, and flirtatious. I think she says something like, because he did not smoke, or skate, or swim, he was drawn to women like me who did. 

Narrator
Peck introduced Wilson to her friend Mark Twain and invited Woodrow to play golf with them. Afterward, Peck invited Wilson to her home, though she too was married. 

As they enjoyed the pleasures of Bermuda together, Wilson felt himself drawn more and more to her. 

Woodrow Wilson There were hours when I lost all of the abominable self-consciousness that has been my bane all my life, and felt perfectly at ease. Happily myself. God was very good to me to send me such a friend, so perfectly satisfying and delightful. So delectable. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
She was a lovely, sympathetic, interesting person, interesting woman. Something happened there. Some kind of love affair began between the two of them. We don't know how far it went. Probably rather far, just given Wilson's own rather passionate nature. 

Narrator
When Wilson returned home, he and Mary continued to write to each other. Eventually, Ellen learned about their correspondence. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
She confronted Wilson, but not in a fighting way. And what she was able to do was to get him to back off. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Well Ellen must've been very upset about the relationship that Woodrow had with Mary Peck. But to maintain his path to his career, she put a good face on it. Made out that Mary was a friend of the family, and she had no objection to their friendship. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
However, we do know it caused pain for all people concerned, especially Ellen. She was grief-stricken by this and Wilson was guilt-stricken. Ultimately, he decided to taper off the relationship with Mary. And Ellen eventually forgave him. And they went on from there. 

Narrator
One morning in April of 1910, a well-known journalist arrived at Princeton. Ray Baker had taken on the role of scout for the progressive movement and was traveling the country in search of a new leader to fight for its agenda. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
Progressives were concerned that the focus on wealth and the focus on a top elite garnering all of the wealth had taken attention away from the purpose of the United States, which was supposed to be a democratic society in which the maximum number of people joined in making decisions. 

Narrator
Baker had heard about Wilson's battles at Princeton. He wondered if the outspoken professor might be a potential progressive candidate for President in 1912. 

Baker spent two hours with Wilson, assessing his potential as a politician. 

Ray Stannard Baker I left Princeton convinced that I had met the finest mind to be found in America public life. And yet, I concluded that he was politically impossible. Was he not wholly without practical experience? He did not know the leaders of his own party in New Jersey, or even in his own town. I did not believe in miracles. 

Narrator
Baker may have been unwilling to bet on Wilson, but not the New Jersey democratic boss, "Sugar" Jim Smith. Smith was a charming Irishman, who was rumored to have taken more than his share of bribes. 

He was desperate to find someone who could win the New Jersey governorship by appealing to progressive voters-but who was politically naÔve enough to be easily manipulated. 

Boss Smith offered Professor Wilson the democratic nomination for governor. Wilson immediately accepted. 

But Ellen was less enthusiastic. After seeing a New York production of "Macbeth," she worried about the physical cost to her husband of unrestrained ambition. 

Ellen Wilson Maybe these husbands ought not to be encouraged to get the things to which their ambitions lead them. I don't mean when the object of their ambition is wrong as in Macbeth's case, but even when it is right, it may wear out their strength and spirit and health. And yet they will never be happy unless they get it. 

Narrator
In September of 1910, Woodrow Wilson began his campaign for governor. 

Woodrow Wilson I endorse the splendid program of the progressives, to put things forward by fairness, by justice, by a concern for all interests. 

Narrator
The election went just as Sugar Jim Smith had planned: Wilson led the democrats to a statewide sweep. Immediately after the new governor was sworn in, Sugar Jim came calling at the capitol to give Wilson his marching orders. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
There is a great irony in Wilson's entrance into politics, which is that he comes in as the tool of the bosses. They want Wilson as a Trojan horse, really. Well, turns out their Trojan horse was a real horse. 

Narrator
In defiance of Smith, Wilson introduced four major reform bills: an anti-corruption law, election reform, new laws to regulate corporations, and workman's compensation. 

"The whole country is watching the first session of the New Jersey legislature under Wilson with interest," the New York Times wrote, "it is the beginning of the combat between him and the old system." 

Sugar Jim still controlled many of the votes in the legislature, and he was confident he would be able to teach the professor a lesson. 

But when Sugar Jim's supporters gathered at a legislative caucus to plan Wilson's defeat, they were stunned when the governor arrived in person to confront them. The legislators angrily told him that his presence was unconstitutional. In response Wilson whipped a copy of the state constitution out of his pocket and cited the passage that gave him the right to be present. 

Then he made an appeal to what he called "their better, unselfish natures." Every one of the new governor's reform bills passed. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Wilson was a great surprise as a politician. He had had no elected public life before this moment. He was the darkest of dark horses. But he was a refreshing presence. He was someone who spoke clearly and emphatically, and spoke truth to power and denounced the bosses and denounced the bankers and the corporate titans and so on. In language that was precise and eloquent to a degree that few others could do. 

Narrator
Wilson had served in elected office for just two years, but newspapers across the country were suddenly calling him a contender for the White House. "Why is Governor Woodrow Wilson now frequently mentioned as a Democratic candidate for the presidency?" the Rocky Mountain news asked. "We think the answer is to be found in two words: progressiveness and courage." 

The Democratic Convention of 1912 took place in Baltimore. The excited delegates were convinced that the White House was within their grasp - if only they could agree on a candidate. 

In three previous elections the Democrats had backed Nebraska populist William Jennings Bryan. 

Historian: Michael Kazin
The Democratic Progressives had run hard behind Bryan three different times. He had lost all three times by increasing margins. And so they needed to find someone who could win. They needed somebody who would not scare the richest most powerful people in society who ran most of the newspapers in America, which was the mass media at the time. And they also wanted someone of course who was a true Progressive. 

Narrator
Nine candidates had tossed their hats in the ring. The favorites were Wilson, backed by reformers in the North, and Champ Clark, darling of conservatives and big city bosses. 

Though William Jennings Bryan was not running, everyone knew that it would be impossible to win the nomination without his support. 

For years Bryan and Wilson had held each other in mutual contempt. But then Ellen Wilson stepped in. Though she was ambivalent about Woodrow's political ambitions, Ellen was also fiercely loyal. 

Without consulting her husband, Ellen invited Bryan to dinner. That evening, Wilson, the Princeton intellectual, and Bryan, the Nebraska populist, found out they had a surprising amount in common. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
I think any wife who, who feels that she understands so well her husbands career, that she can arrange dinner guests that fit those plans, I think that shows an enormous strength and independence. And arranging a dinner with anybody as important as a, a former candidate for President, and then telling your husband to get home because you had arranged it, it shows a lot of guts. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Ellen made it possible for Wilson to be Wilson. She was very shrewd about how to exploit opportunities. Whenever he had a great career change, whenever he had a great turning point Ellen's advice was absolutely critical. 

Narrator
On June 27th, the delegates began voting in the sweltering heat of Baltimore's convention hall. Round after round of balloting produced deadlock after deadlock. 

Historian: Michael Kazin
The convention of 1912 was one of the more exciting political conventions in American history, probably in world history for that matter. It was very hot, of course. It was July and it was Baltimore before the days of air conditioning, so this didn't help matters. You were involved in a circus which at any moment could break out into a fist fight. 

Narrator
With no end to the deadlock in sight, Woodrow Wilson headed for the place he loved best. While he was on the 18th tee, he got word that the logjam at the convention had started to break - William Jennings Bryan was throwing his support behind Governor Wilson. 

On the 46th ballot, Wilson became the Democratic nominee for President. 

For all its drama, the convention was only the opening act for one of the most exciting Presidential elections America had ever seen. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
To use a phrase of Theodore Roosevelt the American voters, especially middle class voters were in 1912 in an heroic mood. They were in heroic mood demanding change. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
It's one of the most significant elections in all of American history because it involves a philosophical debate about the nature of government, of a depth and a sophistication that we've never really seen in American politics. 

Narrator
On the right was the Republican candidate, President William Howard Taft, running for a second term with strong support from big business. On the left was socialist Eugene Debs, who told his millions of supporters that it was time for the working class to run America. 

Two candidates were trying to win the voters in the middle. One was Wilson. The other was former President Theodore Roosevelt, running as leader of his new Bull Moose Party. 

Both Roosevelt and Wilson were reformers. It was the only thing they had in common. 

Where Roosevelt was blustering and charismatic, Wilson often seemed cold and distant. Where Roosevelt was a baby kisser and back slapper, a reporter had once said that shaking Wilson's hand was like shaking a dead fish. Wilson was painfully aware of their differences. 

Woodrow Wilson He appeals to their imagination. I do not. He is a real, vivid person who they have seen and shouted themselves horse for and voted for, millions strong. I am a vague, conjectural personality, more made up of opinions and academic prepossessions than of human traits and red corpuscles. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Roosevelt was one of the most kinetic, almost frantic personalities of his era. Wilson was much more thoughtful, more cerebral. But beneath that veneer was quite a passionate individual, passionate about his politics and often passionate about his personal life. 

Narrator
As election day neared, the Roosevelt camp came into possession of one of Mary Peck's steamy love letters to Wilson, which was apparently stolen from Wilson's luggage. Roosevelt's advisors urged him to release the letter to the press. 

But Roosevelt refused. It was hopeless, he said, to convince the public that a man who looked like a drugstore clerk was, in reality, a Romeo. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
And they didn't release the letters, and I think that explains why most people have trouble seeing Woodrow Wilson as this passionate man, because he did look like the druggist on the corner, you know. He was very academic, those steel-rimmed glasses, he always seemed very serious, but he was an extremely passionate person. 

Narrator
Wilson's best hope against Roosevelt was to speak to Americans in person. He crisscrossed the nation, warning his audiences that big business was cutting average Americans out of their fair share of the nation's wealth. 

Woodrow Wilson We must choose whether we shall continue to have our affairs dominated and determined by small groups of men or whether we shall again assert the individual independence of the American people in the conduct of their business and their politics. 

Narrator
Wilson promised Americans a "New Freedom" - a new opportunity for the average person to get ahead in the world. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
The difference between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, at that time was that Woodrow Wilson wanted to enact very tough anti-trust law, to break up the big corporations into smaller units. Then the government could sit back and have a kind of self-regulating economy, so that smaller business people, "the man on the make," he used that phrase a lot, could have an opportunity to realize their full potential. This is part of what he meant by "The New Freedom." 

Narrator
Wilson spent election day at the governor's home in New Jersey. After dinner he read Ellen and his daughters a poem by Browning about the importance of accepting God's will. 

Woodrow Wilson "Indeed, the special marking of the man / Is prone submission to the heavenly will / Seeing it, what it is, and why it is." 

Narrator
Nellie was the first to hear the sound that signaled the outcome of the election. 

Nellie Wilson I heard the first muffled tone of the bell of old Nassau Hall - another moment it was ringing like a thing possessed. 

I ran to one of the front windows. In all directions, as far as I could see, there were people coming. Swarms had already invaded the little garden and were crowding around the porch. Swaying torches made grotesque circles of light. And there, a red glare shining full on his face was father, utterly, utterly unfamiliar. He was no longer my father. These people, strangers who had chosen him to be their leader, now claimed him. 

Narrator
On March 3, 1913, the Wilson's arrived in Washington, to celebrate Woodrow's inauguration as President. But the family had as much to worry about as celebrate. Wilson had won just forty-three percent of the vote, hardly a mandate. Before the election, he had forecast that the life of the next president would be hell and said that the stress of the job might well kill him. 

Ellen was also worried about what the strain of the presidency would do to Woodrow's blood pressure. But as Nellie helped her mother prepare for an inaugural tea at the White House, the first sign came that it was Ellen who was in trouble. 

Nellie Wilson I arranged her hair and adjusted her prettiest hat at just the right angle. She hardly said a word. Then, suddenly, putting both hands over her face, she burst into tears. There was almost despair in her sudden break, something I had never seen before. I was afraid that mother was ill. As she left with father, I cried with black despair, 'It will kill them-it will kill them both.' 

Narrator
On March 4th, 1913, Wilson was inaugurated the 28th President of the United States. 

Soon after he took office, Wilson announced that he would do something no president in 113 years had done: address the Congress in person. Then he sat down at his typewriter, a machine which he had been one of the first Americans to embrace, and began tapping out his speech. 

Woodrow Wilson I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity to address the two Houses directly and to verify for myself the impression that the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the Government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice - that he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service. 

Narrator
As he settled into his new job, Wilson established a strict schedule. He arrived at eight each day for a breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, and two raw eggs in fruit juice - "like swallowing a newborn baby," he said. He then dictated from nine to ten a.m. and saw visitors until one. After lunch with his family, he returned to his office. 

Nearly all who came to see him there were struck by the President's deep sense of mission. When the chairman of the Democratic Party came to demand a job in return for helping Wilson win the presidency, Wilson told him that it was not the Democratic Party, but God, who had made him president. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
A character in any President is an important part of the way he handles his office. Now in Wilson's case let's just take one aspect of his character, his certitude. His certitude that he was right. Now certitude is a great asset, when you have to fight for what you believe in and when you convince other people that your correct. But certitude is a serious obstacle when you're trying to achieve something to which there's a good deal of opposition and where it's necessary to compromise in order to have your way. 

Narrator
Wilson was fortunate that in his early days in office there was little organized opposition to his plans for change. 

In a rapid fire series of bills he was able to toughen anti-trust laws, win new protections for labor unions, create the Federal Reserve System to make loans more easily available to average Americans, and give government the resources it needed to rein in big business by creating the first lasting income tax. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
The first two years of Wilson's first term are one of the most remarkable moments in modern American politics. There's more reform agenda accomplished in that brief moment than in virtually any other two year period in the 20th century. He lays down the rhetorical markers about how the state must step in to insulate citizens against the volatilities of the free market and this has defined the character of American politics ever since. 

Narrator
In a second round of reforms Wilson pushed through the first law mandating an 8 hour work day and the first law banning child labor. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
There's a very nice coincidence for Wilson. In many ways, the kind of ideas that the progressives and programs that they had begun to agitate for, are exactly the kind of things that he had been studying for over twenty years. Now how do you make government more accountable? How do you make it more open? How do you exercise power both more efficiently and more openly, and more answerably, there. And the man and the moment found each other beautifully in that. 

Narrator
It was an impressive record, but not an unblemished one. Many prominent African Americans had supported Wilson in 1912, because of his promise that his "New Freedoms" would apply to all Americans equally. But once he was in office, Wilson sided with the many southern Democrats in Congress and in his cabinet who favored segregation. 

During his first term, the House passed a law making racial intermarriage a felony in the District of Columbia. Then Wilson's new Postmaster General overturned 50 years of integration by ordering that his Washington offices be segregated. Soon, plans were made to segregate many other federal departments. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
To understand Woodrow Wilson's racial views, it is important to remember that he was a Southerner. He had been raised in a climate in which it was presumed that African American people were less evolved than Anglo Saxon people. This was not a casual assumption on his part, it was one that was ingrained in his whole being. 

Narrator
In 1914, newspaper publisher William Monroe Trotter led a delegation of African Americans who had endorsed Wilson to the White House. Trotter angrily asked the President, "have you a new freedom for white Americans and a new slavery for your Afro-American fellow citizens?" 

Historian: David Levering Lewis
They demand an accounting from Woodrow Wilson. They supported the man and these are the consequences and Wilson pleads misunderstanding and suggests that what is being done is really a boon and a benefit to the African Americans. It's taking away the tension in the work place, as it were. And Trotter will have none of this and voices rise and tempers rise until Wilson excuses Trotter from his presence. As Trotter leaves he does something quite extraordinary. He convenes his own press conference on the grounds of the White House and reenacts the exchanged just transpired between him and the President. 

Narrator
Wilson was furious that a black man would dare to publicly question him. For the rest of his presidency, he would make no effort to improve race relations in America. 

Historian: David Levering Lewis
In, in every man's life, there's the possibility of making a considerable difference. By attitude, by word spoken, by something done or not done. You'd have to say that in the area of race relations, Woodrow Wilson was deficient on all those points. He neither said what should have been said, he neither did what should have been done, nor did he understand what needed doing. 

Woodrow Wilson It would be an irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs. All of my preparation has been in domestic affairs. 

Narrator
In Wilson's first month in office, Mexico erupted in revolution when its democratically-elected President was murdered by the Mexican military. 

Wilson was convinced that the right thing for the United States to do was send in troops to restore democracy to Mexico. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
Always the idealist, always the moralist, Wilson did have some general ideas about foreign relations to which he repaired when the crises in Mexico and in Europe arose. As always, he saw the United States as a special vehicle of the Lord to provide an example to the world of the blessings of democracy and constitutionalism. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Wilson hadn't thought that much about foreign policy. Like, like nearly all Americans of his time, even the best educated ones, he thought about domestic affairs. It just, it just wasn't-this was not something that was on his mind that much. And he had to learn it. We have a President of the United States, who has to learn foreign policy by the seat of his pants. Mexico is his shakedown cruise. 

Narrator
When the American Navy sailed into Vera Cruz, Mexicans saw it as Yankee imperialism and united to fight the invaders. The resulting battle left more than a hundred dead. 

Despite the fierce Mexican opposition, Wilson remained certain that his was the right course. When rebels attacked a border town, Wilson sent more troops into Mexico, once again embroiling the United States in the chaotic revolution. 

Wilson's actions sparked intense criticism. "What legal or moral right has a President of the United States to say who should be President of Mexico?" Harper's Monthly asked. "Wilson is a ridiculous creature in international matters," Theodore Roosevelt declared. "He is the very worst man we have ever had in his position." 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Wilson's intervention in Mexico, in a sense, reveals his amateurism in this area. It's a marker I think of just how indifferent he was to the rest of the world, that he, he had reflex, impulse to introduce military forces. That was a pretty ham-handed device for trying to deal with complicated politics of the Mexican revolution. 

Narrator
Mexico was just the beginning of Wilson's entanglement in foreign affairs. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. 

Austria and Germany mobilized their armies to punish the Serbs. To defend them, Russia and France called up their armies. It was clear to all that the great powers of Europe were on the verge of a catastrophic war. 

Deeply influenced by his boyhood experience of the civil war, Wilson believed that such a conflict offered nothing but heartache for all caught up in it. And yet, there were powerful forces pushing him to get involved. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson has a problem on his hands. He is committed as an American President to defend the national interest, which interest is to stay out of that European war. At the same time, he has a multi-ethnic population in which there are millions of people whose families are fighting on both sides of a conflict at the same time as the United States becomes neutral. He therefore has an impossible political task, which is to keep the country out of the war and at the same time respond to major pulls of public opinion to get involved on one side or the other. 

Narrator
For a president who was knew little about foreign affairs, it was the greatest challenge imaginable. And yet, in July of 1914, the impending disaster in Europe was by no means the first thing on Woodrow Wilson's mind. 

As first lady, Ellen Wilson refused be confined to the traditional role of White House hostess. With her daughters grown and her siblings finally living on their own, she was determined to do something meaningful. 

After she took a tour of the

area where Washington D.C.'s poorest residents lived, Ellen resolved to help clean up the city's slums. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Ellen took the job of first lady to a whole new level. She tied her name to housing legislation, worked very hard to get alleys, backhouses they were called, improved so that slums would be torn down. She's the first First Lady to do that. 

Narrator
After less than a year as First Lady, Ellen had to abandon her efforts - the occasional bouts of exhaustion which she had experienced since the inauguration were becoming much worse. Her doctor discovered that Ellen was suffering from a kidney ailment called Bright's Disease. 

In the summer of 1914, just as Europe was spiraling towards war, Woodrow Wilson watched helplessly as his wife's health deteriorate. 

Then, on August 1st, as Ellen's condition dramatically worsened, a telegram arrived informing the president that all hope for peace was gone: Germany had declared war on Russia. Nellie and her father stood vigil at Ellen's bedside. 

Nellie Wilson Every time Dr. Grayson came from mother's room, we searched his face for some sign of encouragement, but we did not find it. It was like a terrible nightmare: Europe in flames, and all hope fading from our own hearts. 

Narrator
Throughout their thirty years of marriage, Woodrow and Ellen had never stopped writing each other love letters. 

Ellen Wilson My life has been the most remarkable life history that I ever even read about-and to think I have lived it with you! I love you, my dear, in every way you could wish to be loved. Deeply, tenderly, devotedly, passionately. 

Woodrow Wilson It is very wonderful how you have loved me. I have gone my way after a fashion that made me the center of the plan. And you, who are so independent in spirit and in judgment, whose soul is also a kingdom, have been so loyal, so forgiving. Nothing but love could have accomplished so wonderful a thing. 

Narrator
On August 6, with her husband at her side, Ellen Axson Wilson died. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Wilson was absolutely devastated by Ellen's death. They had been married for almost thirty years. They had seldom been apart. She had been his closest companion, she had been his greatest emotional support. And now suddenly she was taken away, and she was taken away, at, in some ways, the worst possible moment. He's got to deal both with the breakdown of the world on the one hand, and he's got to deal with this breakdown in his personal life. 

Narrator
In the days after his wife's death, the President began to exhibit the symptoms of severe depression, including confused thinking and memory loss. To an aide Wilson said that he was no longer fit to be President because he could no longer think straight. 

And yet clear thinking had never been more important. Germany had just shocked the world by invading neutral Belgium, drawing Britain into the war, and making it far more likely that America, too, would be sucked in. 

As he wandered alone through the White House, the President was heard by his staff to mutter one phrase, again and again. 

Woodrow Wilson My God, what am I to do? 

Part 2: The Redemption of the World

Narrator 
In 1915, the Great Powers of Europe were engaged in the most brutal war mankind had ever fought. After just six months of fighting, more than a million young men had been killed. 

President Woodrow Wilson was trying to keep America out of the cataclysm - but he was crippled by a crisis in his personal life. His wife Ellen had died just as the war began. Wilson, who had always relied on a strong woman for support, was utterly bereft. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
Not long after Ellen died, the week that the war broke out, he made a comment that he wished somebody might shoot him. He was that miserable over the loss of Ellen, he was terribly lonely.

Narrator
Wilson's deep need for female companionship stood in stark contrast to his cold and aloof public image. 

Historian: Louis Auchincloss
He was a deeply passionate man. He was passionate in his relationship with women. He was passionate in his relationship with his God. All that came from a kind of much repressed but inward highly burning fire. 

Narrator
Wilson's intense drive had seen him through the worst trial of his life. While President of Princeton, the blood vessels in one eye had burst. Fearing that his high blood pressure might kill him, doctors urged him to retire. But Wilson ignored them. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
Here is a man who's relatively young who already has an advanced disease. The fact of the matter is the piper was going to have to be paid at some point. He was living on borrowed time. 

Narrator
Wilson had defied the odds to become President of the United States, by promising to give all Americans a chance to share in the wealth created by the new industrial age. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
The first two years of Wilson's first term are one of the most remarkable moments in modern American politics. There's more reform agenda accomplished in that brief moment than in virtually any other two year period in the 20th century. 

Narrator
Now Europe was exploding in flames. Haunted by his childhood experience of the horrors of the Civil War, Wilson became obsessed with creating a new world order. 

Historian: Jay Winter
No one else had tried to fundamentally recast the international order in a way that would make war impossible. His was to be a revolutionary peace, one that would transform the world. You can't imagine a higher goal than that. 

Narrator
But Wilson's pursuit of his dream would almost kill him. 

One afternoon in early 1915, as President Woodrow Wilson approached the elevator in the White House, its doors opened to reveal a striking woman in walking clothes and muddy boots. The fifty-nine year old President wasted no time getting acquainted with Edith Bolling Galt, a 42-year-old widow. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
She was a friend of a female relative of Wilson's who was living at the White House. They'd just happened to wander in when Wilson came back from a golf game, and this chance meeting and he was absolutely dazzled, just plain dazzled. 

Narrator
Edith Bolling Galt was a woman ahead of her time - confident and independent. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
She was a wealthy widow, you know her husband been dead a few years. She wore clothes from Paris. She drove her own little electric car around Washington. After the first dinner Edith has at the White House with Woodrow, she writes to a friend, saying, you know, I dined tonight with the President. You don't get the sense of a woman whose been swept off her feet. 

Narrator
Most Americans believed it was inappropriate for any man, and especially the President, to be dating so soon after his wife's death. Wilson had to do his courting in secret. 

Day after day, the President's chauffeur-driven Pierce Arrow rolled at 20 miles an hour through the Virginia countryside. 

Woodrow Wilson You are so vivid; you are so beautiful! I have learned what you are and my heart is wholly enthralled. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
Woodrow Wilson was a very vital, passionate man. They'd go for long drives along the Potomac, and they'd sit in the backseat, and they would talk, and they would hug each other and kiss. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
In a way, what woman wouldn't be flattered by attracting the President? Here is the most important man in the country. He's bright, he's witty, he's warm. And he's President. 

Narrator
Wilson's long drives with Edith terrified his advisors, who feared that the relationship would be discovered and Wilson's re-election put at risk. 

Their fears were realized when a rumor raced through Washington that the President of the United States had been seen necking with a woman in his car. 

Then, The Washington Post society columnist revealed that "the President has been 'entertaining' Edith Bolling Galt regularly." But due to a misprint, the article stated "the President has been "entering" Edith Bolling Galt regularly." The entire edition of the paper had to be recalled. 

With gossip spreading across the country, Wilson was desperate to make the relationship respectable. Only three months after meeting Edith, he asked her to marry him. 

But Edith was shocked at the proposal - and turned him down. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
It wasn't considered proper to marry so soon. So I think part of that was Edith's feeling. And part was just what woman would change her life so completely in five weeks. Remember, she was used to going to Europe when she wanted, she had plenty of money, she, she had the best of Washington society, and she could travel wherever she wanted. She wasn't too taken with the idea of living in the White House. 

Narrator
For the moment, Woodrow Wilson would have to cope with life as a single man. 

In August 1914, it took only one day to show the world how horrific the European war would be. Wearing nineteenth century uniforms of bright red trousers and blue coats, French troops marched in formation across open ground toward the invading German Army. Machine guns mowed them down. 27,000 French soldiers were killed. 

Woodrow Wilson wanted to avoid the conflict at all costs. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
He believed that if the United States could stay out, that we could be the great reconciler, the great mediator. And in order to do that, we can't get involved in something like this horrible war. It's destructive, it's the antithesis of civilization, and what's more, he deeply suspected the motives of all the belligerents in there. 

Narrator
Wilson also knew that America's vast immigrant population had divided interests in the war. He feared that if the U.S. joined the fight, it might split the country. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
We have to remember that the moment Wilson assumes the Presidency is the moment when there were more immigrants relative to the general population than in any other moment in American history, including our own. And many of those immigrants came from the countries of the Austrian/Hungarian Empire and from Germany, and it was anybody's guess where their loyalties might lie. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson wanted no part of that because he saw that it was potentially the case that a European war would tear the fragile, very delicate web of American unity right apart. 

Narrator
But while America and its President were effectively avoiding the war, there were powerful forces threatening to drag them in. 

Historian: Walter LaFeber
By 1915, he found that the American economy doesn't work in a neutral way. That in order for the American economy to work they had to sell goods to the belligerents - the people who were fighting in Europe. And it just so happened, that most American banking ties were with the British and the French, and as a result, Wilson finds himself by 1915, he is essentially locked in on the British French side. 

Narrator
On a sunny afternoon in May of 1915, the British luxury liner Lusitania was nearing the end of its voyage from New York to England. 

A German submarine sighted the vessel. It fired one torpedo. The great ship exploded and sank in twenty-two minutes. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
The sinking of the Lusitania shocked Americans, because it seemed like an act of almost wanton murder on the high seas. This was not a military ship or even a merchant ship. It was a passenger liner with men, women, and children, non-combatants, and among them, of course, a hundred and twenty-eight Americans that went down among the, the twelve hundred who died. 

Narrator
Germany's aggression on the high seas stoked nationalist cries for America to enter the war. Wilson's bitter rival, former President Theodore Roosevelt, was eager for the United States to wield a "big stick" on the world stage. When Wilson failed to retaliate against the Germans, TR called the President a "prime-jackass" and threatened to "skin him alive if he doesn't go to war." 

Republican Congressmen, led by Henry Cabot Lodge were also furious with the President. "Wilson is afraid," Senator Lodge declared. "He flinches in the presence of danger, physical and moral." 

Wilson's true feelings about the conflict were reflected in a newly erected Civil War monument that the President passed each time he journeyed to the capitol. 

Woodrow Wilson I come from the South and I know what war is, for I have seen its terrible wreckage and ruin. It is easy for me as President to declare war. I do not have to fight, and neither do the gentlemen on the Hill who now clamor for it. It is some poor farmer's boy, or the son of some poor widow - who will have to do the fighting and dying. 

Narrator
In the spring of 1915, Woodrow Wilson still had his eyes on Edith Bolling Galt. Though she had not agreed to marry him, she was willing to continue seeing him. And when the war kept Wilson closeted with his advisors at the White House, she sent him letters by secret courier. 

Edith Bolling Galt My precious weary pilot, I will kiss the tired eyes that have strained so to see the right course through the blackness ahead, and try to shut out the tumult that is raging around you on every side by whispering in your listening ears: "I love you, my precious Woodrow." 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
There's an old saying, that power is the greatest aphrodisiac. Wilson certainly used the Presidency as a way of wooing the Widow Galt. He shared his thoughts with her. He shared secrets of state with her. He would show her the documents about the Lusitania, about the submarine. He used the Presidency as a way of winning this woman. 

Narrator
By fall, Wilson was on the verge of popping the question again. Suddenly, their love was put in jeopardy by the President's relationship with another woman. 

Nine years earlier, on the island of Bermuda, Wilson had had an affair with a socialite named Mary Peck. Now, as the Presidential election approached, Wilson learned that the Republicans were planning to make his infidelity an issue in the campaign. 

Woodrow decided he had no choice but to tell Edith about his affair with Peck, and warn her that she might now be caught up in a major scandal. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
When Woodrow confessed to Edith that he had this relationship with Mary Peck, she really had second thoughts, as I think any woman would. And she gave, I guess she must've begun thinking how many other people knew about this, what kind of scandal might be involved, how many other women there might be. She really began to take another look at this man, because this was a side of him that she did not know. 

Narrator
On September 22nd, Edith retreated to her home to decide on the future of their relationship. As she deliberated, a letter from Woodrow arrived, begging her forgiveness. 

Woodrow Wilson I know I have no rights, but I also know that it would break my heart and my life if I could not call you my darling. 

Narrator
Finally, Edith made her reply. 

Edith Bolling Galt Dearest, I am not afraid of any gossip or threat with your love as my shield... I now see straight into the heart of things and am ready to follow the road where love leads. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Well at the end of a long night's thinking, Edith comes around and decides that she really does want to marry Woodrow. And I think, frankly, historians are divided about how much of it was really great love, and how much of it was the attraction of the power of the White House. 

Narrator
On the 9th of October 1915, the couple made their first public appearance together at the World Series in Philadelphia. 

Two months later, as a marine band played the wedding march, the couple was married in a small ceremony in Edith's home. 

Though there were still public murmurs of disapproval, Wilson's three daughters welcomed Edith into the family, firm in their belief that their mother Ellen would have approved. 

With her marriage to one of the most powerful men in the world, Edith Wilson knew she was embarking on a remarkable journey. "You will lay your hand in mine," she wrote, "and with the other turn the pages of history." 

In 1916, while struggling to keep the nation neutral, Wilson had to campaign for reelection. 

His Republican opponent was Charles Evans Hughes, a former Governor of New York and Supreme Court Justice. In private, Theodore Roosevelt called Hughes a "bearded iceberg." But TR's deep-seated hatred for Woodrow Wilson drove him onto the campaign trail, where he extolled Hughes, and attacked the President. "No one displays more despicable baseness than Wilson," Roosevelt declared, "who is without a touch of the heroic in his cold, selfish and timid soul." 

Historian: Thomas Knock
Wilson was acutely aware of the way other people perceived him, the public at large, that he was a, "a human thinking machine" that ice water ran through his veins, and, that bothered him a bit. Every now and then when he'd be out on the "hustings" and give a speech, and he got fired up, and somebody from the audience would yell, "You tell them, Woody." He loved it. 

Narrator
The President reached out to a wide range of progressives: From laborers and farmers to ethnic minorities and women suffragists who already had the vote in the west. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
Social Justice Progressives, by 1916, came to feel that Woodrow Wilson was somebody that they could work with. He was not yet their perfect candidate, but they also perceived him as the candidate who was the most likely to keep the country out of war. 

Narrator
Edith relished campaigning in a way Wilson's first wife never had. But she also became an issue in an increasingly dirty campaign. Republican women held so-called "Indignation Meetings" to protest Wilson's pursuit of Edith so soon after the death of his first wife. And bawdy jokes about Edith began to circulate. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
One joke that did evidently persist, the question was, "What did Mrs. Galt do when the President of the United States proposed to her?" And the answer was, she fell out of bed. Which in 1915 would've been extremely risqué, I guess it would be risqué even today, but 1915, that was pretty risqué a story to pass around about the President. 

Narrator
Wilson believed that the tense international situation called for a Chief Executive who had the full support of the American people. He decided that if he lost the election, he and his Vice President would immediately resign. Vice President Thomas Marshall was not told of the plan. 

The early returns showed Hughes winning most of the eastern states. That night, Wilson went to bed thinking he had lost. The next morning, he and Edith awoke to more bad news. 

On such difficult occasions, Wilson drew support from his Presbyterian faith, and he was prepared to accept the loss as God's will. "The news did not seem in the least to disturb him," Edith recalled. 

Then, as polling results trickled in from the western states, the tide turned. By only a few thousand votes, Wilson managed to win the crucial state of California, and the election. 

On the afternoon of January 31st, 1917, the president received a diplomatic communiqué: the German Government had declared all-out submarine warfare against American ships in the Atlantic. 

Then, a telegram was intercepted that revealed Germany was trying to persuade Mexico to declare war against the US by offering the states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico as potential war prizes. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
The fact that Germany is sinking American ships, that it's plotting with Mexico to bring on the war with the United States, causes Wilson to lose all faith in the good intentions of the German government. 

Narrator
Wilson called for an extraordinary session of Congress to receive "a communication concerning grave matters of national policy." After days of agonizing, he had decided to declare war. 

Now he faced the monumental task of telling Americans why, after three years of advocating neutrality, he had changed his mind. He had to explain what was at stake that was worth fighting and dying for. 

On April 2nd, Wilson stood before a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany. 

Woodrow Wilson It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars. But the right is more precious than peace and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples. The world must be made safe for democracy. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
It's the greatest Presidential speech, I think, since Lincoln's second inaugural address. Wilson believed that the United States was a very special nation - that we were really conceived in liberty, and that we had a mission in the world to try to make it a better place. To try to make it more peaceful, more just, more democratic. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
He's often accused there being hopelessly romantic and idealistic. I would, I would argue all to the contrary that Wilson, number one, had no real alternative but to cast the war on this plane of idealism because none of his country's vital interests were really at stake. So he had somehow to convince the public that something was at stake here and what was at stake was the nature of the democratic experiment itself, worldwide. 

Narrator
The address was met with wild applause, and Wilson's justification for going to war was greeted with enthusiasm. 

"The old isolation is finished," The New York World declared, "we are no longer aloof from the rest of the world . . . whatever happens now concerns us, and from none of it can be withheld the force of our influence." 

When he was struggling keep the country neutral, Wilson had lamented the suspension of civil liberties during the Civil War. "War means autocracy," he had warned. "To fight you must be brutal and ruthless." 

Now, America was at war once more and Wilson declared, "Woe to the man who seeks to stand in our way." 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Wilson's fears about the disloyalty of many elements of American society, particularly recent immigrants, all came rather nastily to the floor, almost immediately after the declaration of war. And he allows his attorney general to undertake some very aggressive prosecutions of the ethnic and immigrant press, to search out and suppress any dissident views about the, the waging of the war. It's not a lovely chapter in the history of American civil liberties. 

Narrator
The Wilson Administration began urging American citizens to act as vigilantes and report anyone "who spreads pessimistic stories, cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war." 

From concert halls to schools, Beethoven and Brahms, along with all works of German literature, were banned. In Chicago, schoolchildren were enlisted to publicize the decree. 

In addition, thousands of Americans were arrested for opposing the war on moral and ethical grounds. One of them was Eugene Debs, four-time Socialist candidate for President. After Debs made a speech against the war, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
The Wilson Administration supported and passed an Espionage Act and later a Sedition Act, both of which limited free speech in this country. Under the provisions of that act, the Wilson Administration could arrest anyone that spoke out against the war, anyone who spoke out against Wilson's policies, anyone who spoke out against conscription. 

Narrator
On September 30th, 1917, in an event staged for newsreel cameras, President Wilson presided over the first draft since the Civil War. With hundreds of thousands of young men destined for the killing fields of Europe, Wilson and his advisors were deeply worried about how the country would react. They launched the Committee for Public Information, a propaganda agency charged with whipping up support for the war. Hollywood stars like Charlie Chaplin were enlisted in the effort. 

Edith Wilson did her part. Like millions of other Americans, she signed a pledge to conserve food for the war effort, and displayed the familiar pledge card in the window of the White House. Edith also joined the Red Cross, and passed out cigarettes and chewing gum to thousands of soldiers at Washington's Union Station. 

To publicize a Red Cross effort to increase wool production, Edith opened the White House lawn to dozens of grazing sheep. 

Most of the country was soon firmly behind their President and the war. 

In late 1917, the first American troops arrived in Europe. After two months of training, they were thrown into battle. 

But there were far too few of them to turn the tide. The stalemate with Germany dragged on, and now Americans, too, were dying. 

One of the casualties was a member of a family that Woodrow Wilson knew well: Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin, was a pilot whose plane had crashed behind German lines. Wilson had the grim responsibility of notifying his old rival by telegram that his youngest son was dead. 

The President was haunted by the mounting casualties. In his lifetime, the rifles and cannons of the Civil War had become the machine guns, tanks and airplanes of the world war. He became convinced that there was only one hope for the human race: to make this the last war. 

Woodrow Wilson There are times when words seem empty and only actions seem great. Such a time has come. 

Narrator
The President sent for his closest advisor, Colonel Edward House. Beneath his veneer of Texas charm, House was a master political operator. "He is an intimate man," an acquaintance said, "even when he is cutting a throat." After his first meeting with House, Wilson had declared, "My dear friend, we have known each other always." 

Historian: Louis Auchincloss
You can't get away from Wilson's own statements that he and House were the same person. He made remarks that are almost mystic. And he said "If Colonel House said it then I say it." House was socially minded, politically minded, could talk to anybody, always saw the other man's point of view, always had a compromise in one hand. Wilson was stiff, idealistic, hated to compromise, hated small talk. And together they made a sort of perfect president. 

The task Wilson had in mind for House was to help create a new world order based on democracy. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson's notion that democracy was not only good for America but also good for the world is fundamentally important in Wilson's declaring war in 1917 because the cause of war and the cause of the suffering was the existence of aristocratic, militaristic regimes, whose interests had nothing to do with the people. Give the power to the people Wilson believed and wars would be impossible. A democratic world would be a world without war. 

Narrator
Colonel House secretly organized a group of historians, political scientists and geographers to study the European situation in depth. Known as "The Inquiry," the group analyzed ways to avoid war in the future. 

In early January 1918, the President called the Colonel back to the White House. It was time to take the information compiled by "The Inquiry" and turn it into a concrete proposal. Fearing leaks from his cabinet, Wilson kept the meeting secret. 

Colonel Edward House Saturday was a remarkable day. At a quarter past ten I set to work with the President. We took it systematically, first outlining general terms such as open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, and a general association of nations. Then we began on Belgium, France, and other territorial adjustments. 

At half past twelve o'clock, we finished remaking the map of the world. 

Narrator
Their plan had fourteen simple points. The first thirteen described a world where conflicts would be settled without war. The last point described the organization that would make peaceful coexistence possible, a new international forum called the League of Nations. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
In Wilson's mind, if the sacrifices of blood and treasure that Americans had to pay in World War I were ever going to be justified, it had to be with an outcome that didn't simply end the fighting but created a new international order - and this meant creating a new institution, which would restructure the way international diplomacy and international relations were conducted, and that of course is the League of Nations. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson's vision of how to achieve peace was based upon his belief that you set up institutions that don't resolve all problems but create a framework in which tensions can be absorbed and war can be avoided. This is something he did all his life. Find an institutional framework and have it as a way of making the world safer. 

Narrator
Wilson's Fourteen Points were translated into a dozen languages. They were transmitted by wireless radio into Russia and Austria-Hungary. Leaflets were airdropped into German territory from airplanes and balloons, and were even stuffed into empty artillery shells and lobbed over the German lines. In one of the first international advertising campaigns, Wilson's ideas for a new world order were spread around the globe. 

In 1906, the blood vessels in one of Wilson's eyes had burst, causing a temporary loss of vision. Now there were ominous signs that the condition was again becoming a threat. 

Edith watched her husband with growing concern. 

Edith Wilson When every nerve was tense with anxiety during the war, there would come days when he was incapacitated by blinding headaches which no medicine could relieve. We made the room cool and dark, and when at last merciful sleep would come, he would lie for hours in this way, apparently not even breathing. Many a time, I stole in to listen-to see if he were really alive. 

Narrator
Wilson's headaches were a sign that high blood pressure was gradually hardening the arteries in his brain. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
In 1917 he began to experience, fairly severe headaches implying that his blood pressure was very much out of control. Tie that in with the disease process back in 1906 which clearly identifies the hypertension. You put those two things together and you see that you've got a continuum to a problem that's been going on and has been unaddressed, and the potential risk for strokes and the like, is of great concern. 

Narrator
Wilson's physician, a Navy medical officer named Dr. Cary Grayson, was deeply worried about the President's health. Grayson accompanied the President wherever he went and constantly nagged him to relax and exercise more. 

With his days of playing baseball long behind him, the President's favorite sport was now golf. He was known to play rain or shine. He even painted his ball red in order to see it in the snow. But for all his eagerness, he was a classic duffer. "Golf," Wilson said, was "an ineffectual attempt to put an elusive ball into an obscure hole with implements ill-adapted to the purpose."

It was, in fact, Edith who became a superior golfer, the best of any First Lady in history. Her diaries were soon sprinkled with entries such as, "Played golf with W. and Grayson. Beat them both." 

By late spring of 1918, over 500,000 U.S. troops were in France, with 250,000 more arriving every month. Fearing that they would soon be overwhelmed by the Americans, the German High Command launched a massive, last-ditch offensive to try and win the war. 

Beginning on May 28th, the German troops clashed with the American forces along a hundred mile front. Over one million American soldiers fought. 120,000 were killed or wounded. But the American and Allied Armies stopped the Germans, and forced them into a steady retreat. With all hope of victory gone, Germany's Kaiser abdicated. 

Eager to end the war, the new German chancellor wrote the American President, saying that his nation was willing to stop fighting if a peace treaty was based on Wilson's Fourteen Points. 

Historian: Jay Winter
This gives Wilson extraordinary power because he can threaten the allies that if they don't agree to his terms to conduct negotiations with the Germans, then he'll conduct, then he will make a separate peace with them. What he's able to do is to declare that the war is at an end even though the allies aren't happy with it. 

Narrator
When news of Wilson's armistice was announced, celebrations erupted in cities around the world. 

With his dreams of a new world order seemingly within his grasp, Wilson turned his attention to a far more mundane matter: winning the midterm election. 

The President asked American voters to give him a mandate to pursue world peace. But his wartime arrests and censorship had alienated the very progressives who were the most ardent advocates of peace. 

In addition, African Americans who had once voted for Wilson were outraged at his support of segregation. The President's White House screening of the film "Birth of a Nation," which portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in a heroic light, did not help matters. 

Historian: David Levering Lewis
He certainly was very much a man of his times. What he did say was that he was going to lead his time in the right direction. That is really the signature of Woodrow Wilson's Presidency. In the area of race, however, the direction was backward and not forward. 

Narrator
Women's groups were also angry at the President, because of his lukewarm support of universal suffrage and the harsh treatment of White House protesters. 

Historian: Victoria Bissell Brown
He did not think that women should be chaining themselves to the White House fence. His reaction was not very gentlemanly, and not very democratic. Those women were beaten and abused in jail and, in protest, women went on hunger strike. And Woodrow Wilson allowed those women to be force fed, by having tubes shoved down their throats, and liquid nutrition poured down those tubes. 

Narrator
Desperately trying to rally the Democrats, Wilson campaigned in harsh, partisan tones. The strategy backfired. The Republicans won a majority in both Houses of Congress. Shortly before his death, Theodore Roosevelt managed a parting shot. The world should take note, he warned, that Wilson had "no authority whatever to speak for the American people." 

On December 4, 1918, Woodrow Wilson set sail from New York harbor on the George Washington. Undaunted by his losses at home, he was on his way to Europe, determined that the peace treaty with Germany retain his visionary blueprint for world peace, the Fourteen Points. The voyage was a welcome rest. Under the watchful eye of Dr. Grayson, Wilson enjoyed the salt air, games of shuffleboard, and especially the company of Edith. 

Secretary of State Robert Lansing and Colonel House begged Wilson not to go, afraid that if he failed he would be humiliated, both at home and abroad. But Wilson was undeterred. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson's aim in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was probably higher than any statesman in the modern period. No one else had tried to fundamentally recast the international order in a way that would make war impossible. His was to be a revolutionary peace, one that would transform the world. You can't imagine a higher goal than that. 

Historian: Walter LaFeber
Wilson said to a friend on his way over, I would not be able to do this if I did not think I were an instrument of God. And the reception that he got from millions of people in Europe who looked at him literally as a political savior reaffirmed for him that he was going to be an instrument of God. 

Narrator
American voters may not have given their President a ringing endorsement, but the citizens of the great cities of Europe did, turning out by the hundreds of thousands to cheer him. Standing amid the crowds, journalist Ray Baker was troubled by the intensity of their hopes for Wilson. 

Ray Stannard Baker I have, curiously, a feeling of doom in the coming to Europe of Wilson...He is now approaching the supreme test of his triumph and his popularity...No man has long breathed such a rarefied atmosphere and lived. All the old ugly depths-hating change, hating light-will suck him down. 

Narrator
Wilson came to Paris believing America's crucial role in convincing the Germans to sign the armistice had earned him the right to dictate the terms of the peace treaty. 

Woodrow Wilson It is not too much to say we saved the world. And I do not intend to let those Europeans forget it. They were beaten when we came in and they know it. 

Narrator
British and French leaders saw things entirely differently. They believed that they had paid the price for the victory - with the blood of more than two million young men. Desperate for Wilson to understand what they had suffered, they invited him to tour the war zone. But Wilson refused. "They want me to see red," he told Edith, "but I think there should be one man at the peace table one has not lost his temper." 

It was the first of many disagreements between Wilson and the Allies. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Wilson arrives in Paris to take up his part in the peace negotiations in 1918 and he looks across the table and he sees that he's negotiating here with two true sharks. Georges Clemenceau, the Premier of France, and Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, men who were hard and determined to get the best deal they possibly could for their countries and had no tolerance whatsoever for Wilson's idealistic pronouncements about having to reform the whole character of the international system. 

Narrator
"God gave us the Ten Commandments, and we broke them," Georges Clemenceau declared. "Wilson gives us Fourteen Points, we shall see." 

Historian: Jay Winter
His contempt for Wilson was very deep and he believed that this was a man who mistook words for realities and would do everything he could to provide Wilson with all the space for speeches and none of the space for achievements. 

Narrator
If Clemenceau thought little of Wilson's ideas, others were exhilarated by them. Arab leaders wanted the American President to press for their freedom from the British Empire. W.E.B. Dubois, the outspoken African-American leader, implored Wilson to speak out for Africa. And a young Vietnamese student who would later call himself Ho Chi Minh gave Wilson's delegation a letter requesting independence for his country. 

Historian: Walter LaFeber
When Wilson talked about self-determination, open covenants openly arrived at these were things that people in Asia or Africa or African Americans in the United States had never heard before. Here is a person who is willing to take a position on principles that will help them and, and guarantee the quality that they've been searching for generations. But Wilson discovers, when he gets to Europe, is that the world's much more complex than this and he gets caught up in a whole series of issues which he cannot control. 

Narrator
Britain and France were determined to take revenge on Germany. Italy wanted control over much of Yugoslavia. Japan wanted former German colonies in China. One by one Wilson was forced to give way on his Fourteen Points. But he would not compromise on one point: the League of Nations. 

Historian: Jay Winter
It was the moment when you set up an institution, through which over time the conflicts between nations, which were bound to arise, would be resolved. So for him there was one fundamental outcome that had to emerge from the peace negotiations, and that was a commitment to a League of Nations. Everything else was secondary. 

Narrator
Wilson spent long hours deep in consultation with Colonel House. Edith, for years resentful of her husband's close relationship with House, grew increasingly jealous. To fill the time, she visited hospitals and rehabilitation centers, and gave words of support to wounded soldiers. And occasionally, Edith would quietly go on a shopping spree to the great fashion houses. 

Historian: Betty Boyd Caroli
Edith in Paris made a big splash. Her French clothes, her confidence, and later when she traveled in Italy, there was an American soldier who wrote home and said, Mrs. Wilson was every bit as fashionable as the Italian queen. 

Narrator
Finally, the committee chaired by the American President finished its proposal for the League of Nations. Wilson scheduled a presentation for all the peace conference delegates for February 14th. 

Edith was desperate to attend, but French Premier Clemenceau refused her request. Eventually, she wore the old Frenchman down - on condition that she arrive before the delegates, remain hidden behind a curtain during the event, and stay until everyone had left. 

As the delegates crowded into the hall, Edith watched her husband from a tiny, hidden alcove. 

Edith Wilson As he stood there-slender, calm, and powerful in his argument-I seemed to see the people of all depressed countries-men, women and little children-crowding round and waiting upon his words. Afterwards, the members rushed to grasp his hand. 

Narrator
Hours after his triumphant presentation, Wilson left France, confident that his vision for the League had cleared its greatest hurdles. As soon as he arrived in Washington, Wilson met with key Republicans, led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. They were outraged at being excluded from the treaty negotiations and determined to voice their opposition to giving up U.S. sovereignty to an international organization. 

The meeting only made matters worse. One senator said afterward that he felt as if he had been "wandering with Alice in Wonderland and had tea with the Mad Hatter." Wilson, for his part, was convinced that the Republicans were too selfish and short-sighted to grasp his vision. To him, the League was the only hope for a twentieth century free of war. 

Historian: Jay Winter
That higher demand produced a sense that compromise was impossible. And in many respects this is a characteristic Calvinist view. Once you get into the Lord's work of making peace, then great causes have great enemies. 

Narrator
After just ten days at home, Wilson sailed back to France, anxious to finish work on the treaty. The second trip had none of tonic effect of the first. Over-tired and over-wrought, the President came down with a bad cold. But it wasn't an infection that had caused his complaint, he told Dr. Grayson. 

Woodrow Wilson You made an error in my diagnosis. It is true I have a headache, neuralgia, sore-throat, tooth-ache, fever and a chill, but my trouble is that I am suffering from a retention of gases generated by the Republican Senators-and that's enough to poison any man. 

Narrator
On March 13, 1919, Wilson arrived back in France aboard the George Washington. As soon as the ship docked, Colonel House went to the President's stateroom to brief Wilson on what had happened while he was gone. 

House informed him that in order to obtain British and French consent to the treaty, he had agreed to delete all mention of the League of Nations. The President was stunned. Edith recalled that when her husband emerged from the meeting, he looked as if he had aged ten years. "House has given away everything I had won before we left Paris," he told her. 

For years, the men had been extremely close, but now the President felt betrayed. Egged on by Edith, Wilson began to freeze House out. After June of that year, the two men would never speak again. Having lost confidence in his most trusted advisor, under attack by the Senate, and at odds with the Allies, Wilson felt he had no one to rely on but himself. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
He was having to work harder, under greater strain, than he'd ever done in his life. I mean, these are fourteen, fifteen hours a day, day after day after day. 

Historian: John Morton Blum
These attitudes worked on him temperamentally. They worked on him in ways they work on anybody who finds himself or herself in a tense situation struggling every day with a few other people to produce a common artifact they can all admire. What happens is, those conditions make your blood pressure go up. And in Wilson's case that was dangerous. 

Narrator
For two weeks, the President worked furiously, until he had won back what House had bargained away. Then on the afternoon of April 3, as Wilson met with the leaders of France, Britain and Italy, he became violently ill. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
April 3rd he is felled by a severe viral illness manifested by temperatures up to 103, diarrhea, and a very severe productive cough. At that point he became delusional, particularly at night and many individuals associated with him at the time became aware that he was having disorders of perception. 

Narrator
The next morning, Ike Hoover, one of Wilson's personal aides, sensed that the combination of fever and high blood pressure was causing the President to hallucinate. 

Ike Hoover He was suddenly a different man, unreasonable, unnatural, simply impossible. His suspicions were intensified, his perspective distorted. His feelings about Colonel House now became an obsession. And he became obsessed with the idea that every French employee about the place was a spy for the French government. The President was sicker than the world ever knew. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
He's really not thinking appropriately, he's having a delusional state and medically he did have what you define what he had as delirium. 

Narrator
After three days, the President's fever subsided, but not his blood pressure. 

On June 28, 1919, the world's attention turned to the Palace of Versailles, where the treaty finally would be signed. Most of Wilson's Fourteen Points were either badly weakened or missing altogether, and the Allies were demanding payments that might bankrupt Germany for a generation. The German delegates felt angry and betrayed. 

Historian: Walter LaFeber
The problem with Wilson is that he had promised too much. He cannot reconcile his rhetoric to reality. The Germans came to Wilson and said we surrendered on the basis of the Fourteen Points. Now you deliver on the Fourteen Points. And Wilson could not deliver. The French and the British would not let him deliver. 

Narrator
The Germans had no choice. They signed the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson signed too. He had only one achievement to point to - the League of Nations - but he was counting on it to make up for all his failures. 

Before leaving France, the President made a Memorial Day visit to a cemetery where the bodies of six thousand young Americans lay buried. 

Woodrow Wilson Here, the men of America gave that greatest of all gifts, the gift of life. And here stand I, consecrated in spirit to the men who were once my comrades and who are now gone, and who have left me under eternal bonds of fidelity. 

Narrator
Wilson now faced the greatest fight of his life: to convince the U.S. Senate to approve the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. 

But his political skills were dwindling away - casualties of the changes in his personality brought on by his illness. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
What began to occur after that point is an accentuation of the one side which was the "self-righteous, shall not compromise, no man shall put me down type of scenario," versus the "let's work together as team," which he left behind. And so what we began to see was an accentuation of his personality traits. He became a caricature of himself, if you will. 

Historian: Jay Winter
Wilson's politics narrowed as his arteries became blocked. He became a man who simply could not physically or politically function in the way that he had done before. His vision of the world was the same. But his sense of what he would have to do in order to reach his goals became narrower and narrower and narrower. 

Narrator
In his debilitated state, Wilson underestimated the key opponent of his League, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
I think it's safe to say that Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge hated each other's guts. Henry Cabot Lodge relished the political situation that Wilson found himself in after the 1918 mid-term elections. The Republicans controlled the Senate by one, which was enough. It meant that Henry Cabot Lodge was going to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and preside over Wilson's great document. 

Historian: David M. Kennedy
Wilson was asking for not only a major change in the international system itself, but for no less major change in the way the United States would conduct its own international business in partnership with other people, with other nations. This was a gigantic departure. 

Narrator
With Lodge's attacks on the League taking a heavy toll, it soon became clear that Wilson did not have the votes in the senate that he needed. The President realized that unless he took drastic measures, he would lose his League of Nations. 

Historian: Thomas Knock
And at last he decided that the only alternative that he had was a direct appeal to the people. So he heads out on, what was really the equivalent of a full-fledged Presidential campaign. 

Narrator
In September of 1919, the President set out on a 10,000-mile tour of the United States. He was determined to create a nationwide outpouring of support for the League. Both Edith and Dr. Grayson begged him not to go. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
That trip was probably the worst thing he could have done, given the state of his health. He is trying to pack a tremendous amount of public persuasion into a terribly short period of time. It is in some ways an act of desperation. 

Narrator
Columbus, Ohio. St. Louis, Missouri. Tacoma, Washington. The cities came and went in a blur. 

Wilson warned that the League was the only hope for reconciliation among Germany, Britain and France. Without it, he prophesied that there would be a "second World War." 

Woodrow Wilson I do not hesitate to say that the war we have just been through, though it was shot through with terror of every kind, is not to be compared with the war we would have to face next time. What the Germans used were toys as compared with what they would use in the next war. 

Historian: Jay Winter
On the train, convincing the American people that the position he took on the peace treaty was valid, was one of Wilson's highest moments. He was able to find again that rapport with the ordinary voter that he had had earlier in his Presidency. He was able to explain to people coming by the hundreds, by the thousands, to watch him go by, why it mattered so much for him to go over the heads of the Senate, in order to speak to the American people about peace and about the future. About their children's world and their children's, children's world. This is a moment when he had it within his hands to make his politics real. 

Narrator
Public support for the treaty began to grow. "The spirit of the crowd seemed akin to fanaticism," The New York Times reported. "The throng joined in a continuous and riotous uproar." 

But after 5,000 miles of travel and speeches in 16 cities, Wilson once again began to suffer severe headaches. 

Edith Wilson He grew thinner and the headaches increased in duration and intensity until he was almost blind during the attacks. With each revolution of the wheels, my anxieties for my husband's health increased. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
The incredible stress of the trip with each speech that had to be given, all of the traveling, everyone was vitally concerned about Wilson's health and recognizing he was failing, all but Wilson. The fact of the matter is the piper was going to have to be paid at some point. He was living on borrowed time. 

Narrator
On Sept. 25th, the First Lady and a smiling but exhausted President met a crowd of several thousand in Pueblo, Colorado. As he spoke, he seemed magically to regain his strength. Edith described it as "the most vigorous and touching speech he made on the entire tour." 

Woodrow Wilson Again and again, my fellow citizens, mothers who lost their sons in France have come to me and, taking my hand, have (not only) shed tears upon it, but they have added, "God bless you, Mr. President!" Why, my fellow citizens, should they weep upon my hand and pray God to bless me? I ordered their sons overseas. I consented to them being put in the most dangerous parts of the battle line, where death was certain. 

But they rightly believe that their sons saved the liberty of the world. They believe that this sacrifice was made in order that other sons should not be called upon to die. I wish some of the men who are now opposing the settlement could feel the moral obligation that rests upon us not to go back on those boys, but to see this thing through to the end and make good their redemption of the world. 

Narrator
Later that day, Edith entered her husband's room and saw the terrible price that he had paid for making his speech. 

Edith Wilson I found him sitting on the side of his bed, with his head resting on the back of a chair in front of him. He said the pain had grown unbearable and he thought I had better call Dr. Grayson. But nothing the doctor could do gave relief. Finally, about five in the morning, my husband fell asleep. 

Narrator
The next morning, Dr. Grayson told the President that he might die if he continued. "No, no," Wilson responded, "I must keep on." 

Edith Wilson It remained for me to "hold up the mirror to nature" and show him that the fight was over. 

Narrator
The remainder of the trip was canceled and the President's train sped back to Washington. 

Four days after Wilson's return to Washington, the worst fears of Edith and Dr. Grayson finally came to pass. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
Grayson is summoned to the President's bedroom, emerges from the bedroom, throws up his hands and says, "My God, the President is paralyzed." And indeed he was on his left side, the entire left side of his body. 

Narrator
Dr. Grayson quickly diagnosed that Wilson had suffered a massive stroke. He recommended releasing a full statement of the President's condition to the nation. 

But Edith forbade it, and Dr. Grayson fell in line. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
Grayson and Edith Wilson decide at this point the wagons must be circled, because the great warrior has fallen - that no one needs to know this. So what was done at that point with press releases to be dealt with, what would you do? Well, what you would you say basically is that the president is incapacitated for right now. However, it's nervous indigestion. There's not too much to be feared. The words, however, paralyzed were never utilized. You never heard the term stroke. And from that point on the American public was kept effectively in the dark. 

Narrator
Secretary of State Lansing learned the truth, and told Edith and Grayson that the constitution called for the appointment of the Vice President. They ignored him. One week later, when Wilson took a turn for the worse, Vice President Thomas Marshall was informed that the President might die at any moment. Marshall sat speechless, staring at his hands. 

For more than a month, Wilson did little more than sleep and eat. The wheels of government ground to a halt; the Cabinet met but made no decisions; foreign diplomacy was put on hold. 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
Wilson's stroke caused the worst crisis of Presidential disability in American history. And it was handled terribly. Essentially, Mrs. Wilson became a kind of regent. She controlled access to him. She was very specific, that she never made a decision on her own; she did not try to usurp anything there. But we all know that whoever controls access to the President, to some extent, controls the President, is the President. 

Narrator
Ike Hoover watched as Mrs. Wilson became, in effect, the President of the United States. 

Ike Hoover If there were some papers requiring his attention, they would be read to him -but only those that Mrs. Wilson thought should be read to him. . . . Likewise; word of any decision the President had made would be passed back through the same channels. 

Narrator
Six weeks after the stroke, Wilson's ability to speak returned. But he was still unable to write or walk. As the White House cover-up continued, Republicans became suspicious that the President was not fit for office. They designated two Senators, a Republican and a Democrat, to go see the President. 

Edith and Dr. Grayson carefully prepared for the visit. They concealed his paralyzed left arm under a blanket, and lit the room so that the President was in a deep shadow. "We're praying for you, Mr. Wilson," Republican Senator Albert Fall declared. "Which way, Senator?" Wilson grimly retorted, "Which way?" 

The President passed the test. The New York Times reported that the meeting "silenced for good the many wild and often unfriendly rumors of Presidential disability." The public would never know the full extent of Wilson's illness. But his political health could not be stage managed so easily. 

Senator Lodge introduced a series of amendments to the League charter that severely limited American commitments to the organization. Edith could not get her embittered husband to accept the compromises. 

Five months after Wilson's stroke, the League of Nations went down to final defeat in the Senate. Upon hearing the news, he replied, "It probably would have been better if I had died last fall." 

Historian: Jay Winter
He was a man who believed in this extraordinarily difficult goal and when he knew that he wouldn't get there the moment must have been devastating for him. Since it meant that all those deaths had been in vain and that nothing had been accomplished by the American intervention in the war itself. At that moment he must have felt very much like an Old Testament prophet who saw that he would never reach the Promised Land, a bit like Moses on the mountain top looking onto Canaan and realizing that he'll never get across the river. 

Narrator
A frail Wilson muddled through the last year of his Presidency. His favorite activity was watching newsreels from his time in office, with old friends like Ray Baker. 

Ray Stannard Baker Finally, the show was over, the film had run its course. All that glory had faded away with a click and a sputter. It was to us sitting there as though the thread of life itself had snapped. We drew long breaths, and turned to see the stooped figure of the President. He turned slowly and shuffled out of the doorway. Alone. 

Narrator
In 1921, Woodrow Wilson retired to a house on S Street in Washington D.C. Here he received visits from his daughters and grandchildren, and listened to baseball games on the radio. For his efforts to bring a just end to the war, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. But the former President felt that his life's work had been rejected by his own countrymen. 

Historian: David Kennedy
Wilson, in his final days and years, was a truly tragic figure who had aspired to the greatest of heights of accomplishment and brought terribly low, both politically, failing to get the League of Nations, and then his health, just cruelly broken in his final years. It must have been a very sad time for him. 

Historian: Dr. Bert Park
In the last days of his life, though he had the physical deficits, the real, disturbing aspect were these wide swings in emotion, including, crying spells for which there was no underlying reason that one could discern. And for a man of Wilson's intellect and his pride, what a tragedy to see what disease had wrought over a twenty-year period. 

Narrator
In 1921, on Armistice Day, the third anniversary of the end of the war, Wilson rode in a somber procession for the burial of the Unknown Soldier. As his carriage passed, a murmur of recognition arose from the crowd, then a wave of applause swept down the parade route. 

Narrator
The former President returned home to find twenty thousand people milling outside. Wilson finally appeared on his doorstep, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he spoke a single sentence, "I can only say, 'God Bless You." 

Historian: John Milton Cooper
A lot of his friends, his daughters, were surprised at how calm and how serene he became. He said, "If we'd gone into the League of Nations, if we'd adopted my program," he said, "it would have been only a personal triumph on my part." He said, "The people weren't ready for it." He said, "Now, when we do this, it will be because the people want it, because they are ready for it." And he had his own way of putting it, too, he said, "God knew. God knew what to do better than I did." 

Narrator
On Sunday, February 3, 1924, another crowd gathered on S Street. Woodrow Wilson was dead. His body was carried to the Washington Cathedral for burial. President Calvin Coolidge, members of Congress and heads of foreign government attended the ceremony. Edith requested Senator Lodge to forgo his official invitation. Colonel House was not invited. 

Familiar passages of Scripture that Wilson had read throughout his life were spoken over his remains. As the ceremony ended, the choir sang out "The strife is over . . . the battle done."