Woodrow Wilson was an extremely quotable individual, including the time before, during, and after his presidency.This is the first in what will be a long series of posts on Wilsonian quotes. These posts will contextualize Wilson’s words, rescuing them from generalization in the process. So without any further delay…
This quote pops up on twitter at least five times a day on average. However, most people do not attribute it to Wilson (or anyone) at all!
July 10th, 1916–Less than a month after Wilson was nominated for re-election at the Democratic National Convention.
In the early days of his re-election campaign, Wilson was invited to speak at a luncheon meeting of the World’s Salesmanship Congress in Detroit. Wilson used this opportunity to discuss his views on foreign trade, recent Congressional legislation, and general business practices. He further chastised the “recklessness” of uninhibited, laissez-faire capitalism.
Futher, Wilson stated businessmen should instead concern themselves with both the betterment of the national economy and the appreciation for the labor of the common man. According to Wilson, America–more than any other country–was founded to improve the life of its citizens. Without cooperation, this goal would remain unfulfilled.
“I have found that I had a great deal more resistance when I tried to help business than when I tried to interfere with it. I have had a great deal more resistance of counsel, of special counsel, when I tried to alter the things that are established than when I tried to do anything else. We call ourselves a liberal nation, whereas, as a matter of fact, we are one of the most conservative nations in the world. If you want to make enemies, try to change something. You know why it is. To do things today exactly the way you did them yesterday saves thinking. It does not cost you anything. You have acquired the habit; you know the routine; you do not have to plan anything, and it frightens you with a hint of exertion to learn that you will have to do it a different way tomorrow.”