Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 2000
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APRIL 2000


As president, Woodrow Wilson laid the groundwork for today's United Nations.
APRIL 2000
Pioneers of Advocacy

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In a League of His Own
By Dale Keiger

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (PhD 1886) was the first U.S. president with a doctorate, but that's not why he's celebrated here. What put him on our list was his staunch advocacy of a set of principles that led to the League of Nations, principles that remain as current today as they were in 1919.

After his stint at Hopkins, Wilson went on to be a professor, president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and finally the occupant of the Oval Office in 1912. As U.S. president, his legislative agenda led to the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve Board. He kept the country out of World War I until Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare and other factors exhausted his patience and forced his hand, leading to a declaration of war in 1917.

After the war, Wilson formulated his Fourteen Points peace proposal. Several of the points still resonate powerfully: open public diplomacy with no secret agreements, freedom of navigation, the removal of trade barriers between nations, reduction of arms to the lowest possible point, and "a general association of nations...for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike." The last was the idea undergirding the League of Nations. The League didn't fare too well, hamstrung by many factors including the failure of the U.S. Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. It ceased activity during the Second World War, but the concept was revived in 1946 with the founding of the United Nations.