Monday, August 31, 2009

Woodrow Wilson Speaks to Pasadena

Here are the remarks made by Governor Woodrow Wilson to the people of Pasadena on May 11, 1911 (printed in the Pasadena Daily News later that day):

I am delighted to be among friends. I know friends when I see them. The interesting thing about you is that you are a cross-section of American society. Few of you were bred in Pasadena or in California. You are from here, there and elsewhere -- all detached places off the boulder of America. You have blasted away the old hillsides and walks where the true veins of ore are exposed to the light.

Most of you are Californians by adoption. Underneath you are a sample of America.

The wonderful thing about you is that you have escaped the provincialism of certain parts of the east. New York is interesting because it is one of the most provincial places in the world. All news in which New York is particularly interested affects New York. New York handles most of the country's money and must be asked permission to let things go on.

All the rest of the United States is moving on: New York is still sitting still. I have one obvious explanation, that she is sitting and taking toll at the customs house.

Some people think of the history of America as the history of the expansion of New England. I once discussed that with a New Englander. His reply was, "Isn't it?" I told him we had better not discuss the subject.

You Californians are of a new pattern, or new stuff, of new color. You are more than merely an expansion of the Eastern coast, but you must not think that the East is an expansion of the West. You owe the East something for your great progress, your prosperity, your unprovincialism. You can't move out of the Eastern states and lose a prepossession of the Eastern states.

We are more inextricably and inconveniently interlaced in the East. It is very difficult to get away from this without openly being charged with irreverence.

That American flag there stands for the biggest kick ever recorded.

As far back as the English constitution goes, quoting Tennyson, 'The great stream of liberty has broken down every precedent.' America in bonds found her young life intolerable. She committed an act of extraordinary irreverence and radicalism. Did it ever occur to you who led the American revolution? Perhaps because of my prepossession as a Virginian you might not take me seriously but the fact is that it was Virginia. She had every material reason to adhere to the old country and no reason at all to break the thongs. The mother country courted her favor and loyalty, but she cut deep the root of independence and took the leadership. Her stand for independence is not paralleled elsewhere in the history of political development.

The emblem of liberty is not all tradition. No man can inherit the true traditions of our emblem and be bound.

The task of statesmanship is the forecasting of things as they must come, and foreshadowing what is to be done to meet these things.

Don't suppose that the elements of all life are laid above the surface. Don't suppose that on September 15 last when I was nominated for governor I emerged from an academic seclusion. Don't suppose that politics are unknown at Princeton university. It is seething with politics. Politics are so strong there that the real article seems like an amateur.

We must disentangle the progress of the life of the interests. Did you ever notice that this problem of the interests is interlaced with every part of public life?

The time has arrived that the American people insist that everybody implicated with the interests shall change their point of view.

It has been the habit — pardon the classic — for gentlemen of great corporate wealth to say 'The public be damned.' The object of business is not to do anybody, not to exploit anybody. The object of business is to derive a reasonable profit by rendering real and honest service.

If you derive a profit by not rendering real and honest service you are a thief. If your charges are unreasonable you are an extortionist. If you shut others out of business you are a public enemy.

It is time to sit up in bed, rub your eyes and wake up.

You have got to be a smart man to win a dishonest profit. There is no routine in dishonesty. You must do new men tomorrow because the ones you did today are on to you.

The problems facing you today are not merely political problems; they are moral problems. Did you ever have reason to believe that those men who had confidential relationships with Aldrich of Rhode Island, who sneaked ambiguities into the tariff, were the stamp to be called on by honest men to develop America?

Some of our bond holders believe the private interests should be served whether the public interest is served or not. This is getting so conspicuous that it is not polite to refer to it. This belief has impregnated our national congress. There are too many keepers of secrets there, but the chief keeper has now been retired to public life. We are now witnessing the blessed process of retirement.

We don't want any more of exclusive privilege. We are trying to do away with that now -- cleaning house, as it were. We want a good broom, one that will play the part of the people.

The initiative and referendum are excellent things -- good brooms, but the recall is the most wholesome reminder. It suddenly calls time on your when you try to work a game on the public.

You don't find republicans as deeply devoted to their party now as heretofore. They are forgetting that the Republican party is carrying out a sacred trust for the country. Nor has the Democratic party any sole mortgage on the devices of liberty.

The world is a pretty poor bronco to buck. It will chuck you sooner or later. There is no mistaking the signs of the times. If you insist on standing for the old order of things you are bound to be upset. If you see an avalanche coming your way go on sitting; you will never be missed.

There are thousands of men in America who have no conscience but they have a weather eye. What conscience they have may start it but the weather eye is going to do the rest.

* * *

Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey came to Pasadena this morning; he saw and was conquered. As the ex-president of Princeton university and possibly next President of the United States viewed the beautiful homes of Pasadena for the first time he could not find adequate language to express his thoughts.

It was from the big porch of the country club that Gov. Wilson had his second view of Pasadena and the surrounding country.

"I want to get out on that porch to see what the prospect affords," he said to W.F. Knight, after the formalities of introduction had been done with. From his coign of vantage Governor Wilson had an excellent view of the broad golf links upon which several ladies were attempting to lay up scores.

"Beautiful, magnificent," he exclaimed while the Pasadenans looked on and smiled. "What a charming country this is. I should like to come out here to live were it not that I have an official engagement to keep at home."

At this moment Professor Chamberlain was introduced to the governor.

"You have deserted the craft, Governor, however, I think you have deserted us at a most propitious time," Professor Chamberlain facetiously remarked, in reference to Governor Wilson being a former president of Princeton university and an educator.

"I am afraid I am sliding down the scale," Mr. Wilson replied, laughingly.

The governor was assured there were but two Democrats in Pasadena, but that would not interfere with the reception that the citizens had planned for him. He accepted these little quips with a smile and always was ready to retort with like pleasantries.


Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

Only two Democrats? Amazing.

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