Exploring Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy: Viewing the Past through Modern Eyes


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Woodrow Wilson is neither fondly remembered nor well understood by most Americans, and it seems unlikely that he ever will be.  In 2015-16, and again in 2020, a major controversy erupted at Princeton when students protested the university’s close connection with the twenty-eighth president, because of his administration’s segregation policy in the federal workplace.  Recently, the controversy has been playing out in Dallas as well, within the Woodrow Wilson High School community. 

The protest over the worst blot on his presidency is altogether legitimate.  Nonetheless, Wilson has occupied a secure position in the pantheon of great presidents.  The domestic legislation he signed into law and the new directions he charted in foreign policy during the First World War shaped the politics and diplomacy of the United States throughout the twentieth century and beyond.  Among all presidents, only FDR and LBJ have matched his record in enacting a significant legislative program; moreover, no chief executive has ever set in motion a more original plan for reducing the risk of war than Wilson did in the Covenant of the League of Nations.  Even so, he remains one of our most controversial presidents; indeed, for a wide variety of reasons he has continued to compel attention, cyclically, and with contemporary concerns often a part of the driving force.

In his exploration of Wilson’s legacy, Professor Tom Knock will address the foregoing issues in the context of both the past and the present.

Thomas Knock is Professor of History and Chair of the Clements Department of History at Southern Methodist University as well as a Distinguished Fellow at SMU’s Center for Presidential History and an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor.  He received his PhD in History from Princeton University. 

Professor Knock is widely recognized as a leading natinal scholar on Woodrow Wilson. His principal works are To End All Wars:  Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order, which won the Warren Kuehl Prize, awarded by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and The Life and Times of George McGovern, which won the PROSEAward for Biography from the Association of American Publishers.  

In addition, he has written numerous articles in leading scholarly journals; he is the co-author of The Crisis of American Foreign Policy:  Wilsonianism in the 21st Century (Princeton, 2009); and the co-editor the volume, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson: The American Dilemma of Race and Democracy (University of Virginia Press, 2010), and of When Life Strikes the President:  Scandal, Death, and Illness in the White House (Oxford University Press, 2017). 

Professor Knock is a member of the Editorial Board of Presidential Studies Quarterly and of the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.  He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society; in 1996he was a Fellow at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University.  He served as an adviser and commentator for the film, “Woodrow Wilson,” in the PBS “American Experience” series and in the same capacity for the History Channel series on the Presidency, “To the Best of My Ability.”  He also was a principal adviser and commentator for the theatrical documentary, “One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern.”  

This is a joint event with the Princeton Club of Dallas.



Date: Thursday, October 8, 2020

Time: 12:00 PM (CST)
Location: Virtual (Link will be sent prior to the event)
Cost: Free and open to all! Please register below.
**Registration for this event will close at 11 AM (CST) the morning of the event. Please make sure you register before that time to be sure you are sent a link to join.**


Video recording of the event is below.