Woodrow Wilson's War Message

This study guide will help you analyze “Woodrow Wilson’s War Message” speech. In addition to help with your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for putting it into perspective.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was the 28th president of the United States. Wilson was a member of the Democratic Party and, as president, he led the USA into World War I in 1917. In 1919, Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leading architect of the League of Nations, an organization whose mission was maintaining world peace. In his 1917 War Message delivered to the US Congress, Wilson announced the ending of all diplomatic ties with Germany. As a result, the US Congress voted for the United States to enter World War I. 

Excerpt from the study guide: 

Wilson repeats several words, like “humanity”, “democracy”, peace”, “justice”, and “freedom”, which become motifs of his speech. This way, the audience is constantly reminded of the values and principles that America associates itself with. 

In the following example, Wilson relies on the repetition of “we” at the beginning of consequent sentences:

We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Here, the repetition of “we” helps Wilson portray America as honest and willing to protect democracy and the freedom of nations. At the same time, the repetition of “no” shows that America does not have hidden political interests, like Germany. 

When Wilson talks about the consequences of America joining the war, he also relies on repetition:

It will involve the utmost practicable cooperation (…) It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the material resources of the country (…) It will involve the immediate full equipment of the Navy (…) It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States (…) It will involve also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government

In this example, repetition helps Wilson organize his ideas and touch on each aspect he considers relevant. Moreover, repetition helps the audience follow Wilson’s idea in an organized way. 

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Woodrow Wilson's War Message

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