Woodrow Wilson photo

Remarks at La Scala in Milan, Italy

January 05, 1919


Again you have been very gracious, and again you have filled my heart with gratitude because of your references to my own country, which is so dear to me. I have been very much interested to be told, sir, that you are the chairman of a committee of entertainment which includes all parties, without distinction. I am glad to interpret that to mean that there is no division recognized in the friendship which is entertained for America, and I am sure, sir, that I can assure you that in America there would be a similar union of all parties to express friendship and sympathy with Italy. Because, after all, parties are founded upon differences of program and not often upon differences of national sympathy. The thing that makes parties workable and tolerable is that all parties love their own country and therefore participate in the general sentiments of that country.

And so it is with us, sir. We have many parties, but we have a single sentiment in this war and a single sentiment in the peace; and at the heart of that sentiment lies our feeling towards those with whom we have been associated in the great struggle. At first the struggle seemed the mere natural resistance to aggressive force, but as the consciousness of the nations grew it became more and more evident to them that they were fighting something that was more than the aggression of the Central Empires. It was the spirit of militarism, the spirit of autocracy, the spirit of force; and against that spirit rose, as always in the past, the spirit of liberty and of justice. Force can always be conquered, but the spirit of liberty never can be, and the beautiful circumstance about the history of liberty is that its champions have always shown the power of self-sacrifice, have always been willing to subordinate their personal interests to the common good, have not wished to dominate their fellow men, but have wished to serve them. This is what gives dignity; this is what gives imperishable victory. And with that victory has come about things that are exemplified by a scene like this—the coming together of the hearts of nations, the sympathy of great bodies of people who do not speak the same vocabulary but do speak the same ideas. I am heartened by this delightful experience and hope that you will accept, not only my thanks for myself and for those who are with me but also my thanks on behalf of the American people.

APP Note: Teatro alla Scala is the Milan Opera House.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at La Scala in Milan, Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317746

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