Prepare yourself for the young, hot-blooded Woodrow Wilson.
By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star
Those opening A. Scott Bergs new biography of the grim, gray, pince-nezed president are presented evidence of the sideburns-sporting swain who wrote fevered letters to his first wife, Ellen, even after they had been married for 10 years.
Are you prepared for the storm of love making with which you will be assailed? Wilson wrote her near the end of one brief separation.
Its one of the reasons I wanted to write the book, Berg said recently. I felt that no book yet had captured that personal, emotional, even sexual side of Woodrow Wilson. This was a flesh-and-blood man, and one of the motivations of the book was to humanize him.
Berg is known for his big biographies of big historical figures such as aviator Charles Lindbergh, film mogul Samuel Goldwyn and editor Max Perkins. What might at first seem like too much information regarding Wilson somehow becomes, over more than 800 pages, a swift read that does justice to to the grave questions the older President Wilson had to confront.
He is so timely today, and part of that has to do with the (President Barack) Obama and the Syria crisis, Berg said. Over the last few weeks, Obama has been addressing the crisis in a very Wilsonian manner, raising the question of whether the United States was meant to be the policeman of the world.
He has been asking whether we can stand by while a leader is gassing his own people, killing children. Is there not a moral component to American foreign policy? Can we just sit there and look the other way?
These are all the questions that Woodrow Wilson was raising almost 100 years ago.
World War Is centennial approaches, and with it much-anticipated dialogue about the conflict and just why leaders like Wilson believed the United States had a duty to intervene.
Believe me, Wilson would not have led this country into war if he felt ambiguous about it, Berg said.
Wilson uttered one sentence on April 2, 1917, about making the world safe for democracy that became the foundation of American foreign policy. Wilson was suggesting that we could no longer sit back and not notice.
Berg speaks at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 4801 Main St. The library is presenting Bergs appearance with the Truman Library Institute. To RSVP, call 816-701-3407.