November 21, 2001: From the Editor

Photo: A triumphant Wilson rides through Paris with French President Raymond Poincaré in 1918. (Princeton University archives)

The cover story of this issue of PAW features two alumni, Donald Rumsfeld ’54 and Robert Mueller ’66, whose task it is to lead their fractured federal departments through one of the country’s greatest crises. Some 89 years ago, another Princeton alumnus found himself at the helm of a threatened nation.

Woodrow Wilson 1879 was first elected president in 1912, defeating former president and Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt as well as incumbent Republican president William Taft (who ran a distant third). Both Wilson and Roosevelt ran on platforms of reform, and Wilson won in a landslide.

News of Wilson’s election pushed the usual stories of Hobey Baker ’14’s football exploits off the front page of PAW. Instead, editor Edwin Norris 1895 described the reaction of President Hibben — who ordered the bell rung and the American flag raised atop Nassau Hall, and declared the next day a holiday — and of the undergraduates, who gathered in Alexander Hall to follow the election results over a “special wire.” After Wilson’s victory was confirmed by telegram, the students marched to Prospect House in what Norris called a “pee-rade.” They paused to hear Hibben speak at Prospect, then continued on to the Wilson home on Cleveland Lane, where Wilson and his family were receiving the returns. The noise drew then-New Jersey governor Wilson outside to his front porch, where he was greeted with a jubilant ovation.

When the applause died down, Wilson spoke. “I can’t help thinking this evening that something has only begun which you will have a great part in carrying forward,” he began. “The lesson of this election is a lesson of responsibility. I believe that a great cause has triumphed, but a cause cannot go forward by the activities of a single man or a single Congress, it must be done by prolonged efforts. I summon you for the rest of your lives to set this government forward by processes of justice, equity, and fairness.”

A year later, World War I began. Though Wilson successfully kept the U.S. out of the war during his first term (and squeaked to reelection on that basis), by 1917 he could no longer remain in isolation, and the U.S. entered the war in April of that year. During America’s 19-month involvement, 53,500 American soldiers died in battle, another 63,000 from disease and accidents.

In 1985 Rumsfeld won Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson award. In his speech, he said: “Let us not ever forget that freedom is rare on this earth, that it is not universal, nor self-perpetuating. It is precious.”


Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary