President Woodrow Wilson's Transformation

Consummation Ministries has as its special focus the tracing of the progression of God’s redemptive work as it moves toward the consummation.

This progression may be seen in the life of individuals as well as in terms of the history of redemption. A case in point may be seen in the life and work of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the USA (1913-1921). An excellent treatment of his later years may be found in When the Cheering Stopped. The Last Years of Woodrow Wilson, by Gene Smith (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1964).

Both the father and the grandfather of Woodrow Wilson were Presbyterian ministers. Before becoming president of the USA, he served as president of Princeton University. His presidency overlapped the First World War, still often described as the Great War. The entry of the USA into the war had a determining impact on the outcome of the struggle. As President, Wilson served as Commander in Chief of all the USA’s military. He felt deeply a sense of responsibility for the loss of life of so many American young people.

Wilson had a major role to play in the European settlement at the peace conference in Versailles, France, in 1919. Night and day delegates knocked at Wilson’s door, seeking his influence on their behalf. He was largely responsible for the proposed League of Nations, which hopefully would see that never again would anything like the “Great War” recur.

President Woodrow WilsonAmerican politics in the Senate strongly opposed the approval of America’s membership in the League as proposed by Wilson. Having witnessed the bitterness and greed that marred the negotiations of the various nations at Versailles, Wilson predicted (correctly) that unless the USA entered the League, another world war would soon erupt. In order to influence the Senate’s decision, Wilson mounted a railroad campaign across the nation as a way of convincing people of the rightness of the League. The intensity of this campaign brought about a serious heart problem that crippled the left side of Wilson’s body, causing a drooping mouth, a limp arm, and a crippled leg.

Despite his efforts, the USA Senate declined to approve the nation’s entry into the League. Wilson became deeply embittered. He bore serious grudges against senators who had opposed his proposals regarding the League.

But Wilson was a man who read his Bible every day and prayed every night. Eventually “the faith changed him…The terrible bitterness began to drop away… ‘Perhaps God knew better than I did after all’” he affirmed (Smith, 219).

God’s redemptive work mightily affects individuals as well as nations. Even among the high and the mighty, His grace continues to redeem a people to Himself.

Let us continually pray that within our own generation many people, both the high and the lowly, may experience the ongoing power of Christ’s redeeming grace.