Woodrow Wilson–Richard Norton Smith on Woodrow Wilson–Videos
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Background Articles and Vdeos
Richard Norton Smith
“…Richard Norton Smith (born Leominster, Massachusetts in 1953- ) is an American speechwriter and historian. “There’s no excuse for a dull book, a dull museum, or a dull speech,” says Richard Norton Smith. “Especially when dealing with history – the most fascinating subject I know.” His unstuffy approach to the past, combined with his trademark humor, flavors the commentary he provides regularly on C-SPAN and The Newshour With Jim Lehrer.
Born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1953, Mr. Smith graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1975 with a degree in government. Following graduation he worked as a White House intern and as a free lance writer for The Washington Post. After being employed as a speech writer for Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, he went to work for Senator Bob Dole, with whom he has collaborated on numerous projects over the years.
Mr. Smith’s first major book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. He has also written An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986) and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993). In June 1997, Houghton Mifflin published Mr. Smith’s The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, which received the prestigious Goldsmith Prize awarded by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and has been described by Hilton Kramer as “the best book ever written about the press.” Currently Mr. Smith is at work on a biography of Nelson Rockefeller, a massive project involving thousands of pages of newly available documents, as well as more than 150 interviews with Rockefeller associates.
Between 1987 and 2001, Mr. Smith served as Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs in Simi Valley, California; and the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan respectively.
At each of the libraries he contributed to significantly higher public visitation through major temporary exhibits, imaginative public programs, and educational outreach efforts. In addition to expanding and renovating the Hoover Library, Mr. Smith overhauled the permanent exhibitions at Hoover, Reagan and Ford. In 1990 he organized the Eisenhower Centennial on behalf of the National Archives.
In 2001 Mr. Smith became director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, where he supervised construction of the Institute’s landmark home and launched several high profile programs. In October, 2003 he was appointed Founding Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in Springfield, Illinois. In two and a half years he turned around the troubled project, which has since received international acclaim for its innovative approach to history. During this same period, Mr. Smith also served as Executive Director of a revitalized Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, which doubled its endowment under his leadership.
On February 12, 2009, Mr. Smith was a featured speaker at the Congressional Bicameral Celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, held at the U.S. Capitol. He concluded his speech with the line, “Long before he was the President against whom all others are measured, Abraham Lincoln was the American we might all aspire to be.”
Mr. Smith is presently a Scholar in Residence at George Mason University in suburban Washington, D.C. …”
“..Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D. (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. With Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dividing the Republican Party vote, Wilson was elected President as a Democrat in 1912. To date he is the only President to hold a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree aside from those who have held JDs, and the only President to serve in a political office in New Jersey before election to the Presidency.
In his first term, Wilson supported a Democratic Congress to pass the Federal Reserve Act, Federal Trade Commission, the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act and America’s first-ever federal progressive income tax in the Revenue Act of 1913. In a move that garnered a backlash from civil rights groups, and is still criticized today, Wilson supported imposing segregation in many federally-funded agencies, which involved firing black workers from numerous posts.
Narrowly re-elected in 1916, Wilson’s second term centered on World War I. He based his re-election campaign around the slogan “he kept us out of the war,” but U.S. neutrality would be short-lived. When German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann sent a message to Mexico offering to return Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to them if they would ally with Germany in the event of war, and began unrestricted submarine warfare, Wilson wrote several admonishing notes to Germany, and, finally in April 1917, asked Congress to declare war. He focused on diplomacy and financial considerations, leaving the waging of the war primarily in the hands of the military establishment. On the home front, he began the United States’ first effective draft in 1917, raised billions in war funding through Liberty Bonds, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union growth, supervised agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the railroads, enacted the first federal drug prohibition, and suppressed anti-war movements. National women’s suffrage was also achieved under Wilson’s presidency.
In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1919, during the bitter fight with the Republican-controlled Senate over the U.S. joining the League of Nations, Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke. He refused to compromise, effectively destroying any chance for ratification. The League of Nations was established anyway, but the United States never joined. Wilson’s idealistic internationalism, now referred to as “Wilsonianism”, which calls for the United States to enter the world arena to fight for democracy, has been a contentious position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for “idealists” to emulate and “realists” to reject ever since.