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Remarks to the Delegation from the French Society of Nations in Paris, France

February 12, 1919

I appreciate very deeply what Mr. M has said, and I take it that his kind suggestion is that some time after my return we should arrange a public meeting at which I am quite confident, as I think he is, we may celebrate the completion of the work, at any rate up to a certain very far advanced stage, the consummation of which we have been hoping for and working for, for a long time. It would be a very happy thing if that could be arranged. I can only say for myself that I sincerely hope it can be. I should wish to lend any assistance possible to so happy a consummation.

I can not help thinking of how many miracles this war has already wrought—miracles of comprehension as to our interdependence as nations and as human beings; miracles as to the removal of the obstacles which seemed big and now have grown small, in the way of the active and organized cooperation of nations in regard to the establishment and maintenance of justice. And the thoughts of the people having been drawn together, there has already been created a force which is not only very great but very formidable, a force which can be rapidly mobilized, a force which is very effective when mobilized, namely, the moral force of the world. One advantage in seeing one another and talking with one another is to find that, after all, we all think the same way. We may try to put the result of the thing into different forms, but we start with the same principles.

I have often been thought of as a man more interested in principles than in practice, whereas, as a matter of fact, I can say that in one sense principles have never interested me. Because principles prove themselves when stated. They do not need any debate. The thing that is difficult and interesting is how to put them into practice. Large discourse is not possible on the principles, but large discourse is necessary on the matter of realizing them. So that, after all, principles until translated into practice are very thin and abstract and, I may add, uninteresting things. It is not interesting to have far-away visions, but it is interesting to have near-by visions, of what it is possible to accomplish; and in a meeting such as you are projecting perhaps we can record the success that we shall then have achieved, of putting a great principle into practice and demonstrated that it can be put into practice, though only, let us say five years ago, it was considered an impracticable dream.

I will cooperate with great happiness in the plans that you may form after my return, and I thank you very warmly for the compliment of this personal visit.

APP Note: The French Association for a Society of Nations was headed by Leon Bourgeois. The person referred to by the President in the opening sentence is not identified.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks to the Delegation from the French Society of Nations in Paris, France Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317841

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