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Remarks at the Palazzo Marino in Milan, Italy

January 05, 1919

Mr. Mayor:

May I not say to you as the representative of this great city that it is impossible for me to put into words the impressions I have received to-day? The overwhelming welcome, the spontaneous welcome, the welcome that so evidently came from the heart, has been profoundly moving to me, sir, and I have not failed to see the significance of that welcome. You have yourself referred to it. I am as keenly aware, I believe, sir, as anybody can be that the social structure rests upon the great working classes of the world, and that those working classes in the several countries of the world have by their consciousness of community of interest, by their consciousness of community of spirit, done perhaps more than any other influence has to establish a world opinion, an opinion which is not of a nation, which is not of a continent, but is the opinion, one might say, of mankind. And I am aware, sir, that those of us who are now charged with the very great and serious responsibility of concluding the peace must think and act and confer in the presence of this opinion: that we are not masters of the fortunes of any nation, but that we are the servants of mankind: that it is not our privilege to follow special interests, but that it is our manifest duty to study only the general interest.

This is a solemn thing, sir, and here in Milan, where I know so much of the pulse of international sympathy beats, I am glad to stand up and say that I believe that that pulse beats also in my own veins, and that I am not thinking of particular settlements so much as I am of the general settlement. I was very much touched to-day, sir, to receive at the hands of wounded soldiers a memorial in favor of a league of nations, and to be told by them that that was what they had fought for; not merely to win this war, but to secure something beyond, some guarantee of justice, some equilibrium for the world as a whole which would make it certain that they would never have to fight a war like this again. This is the added obligation that is upon us who make peace. We can not merely sign a treaty of peace and go home with clear consciences. We must do something more. We must add, so far as we can, the securities which suffering men everywhere demand; and when I speak of suffering men I think also of suffering women. I know that splendid as have been the achievements of your armies, and tremendous as have been the sacrifices which they have made, and great the glory which they have achieved, the real, hard pressure of the burden came upon the women at home, whose men had gone to the front and who were willing to have them stay there until the battle was fought out; and as I have heard from your Minister of Food the story how for days together there would be no bread, and then know that when there was no bread the spirit of the people did not flag, I take off hat to the great people of Italy and tell them that my admiration is merged into friendship and affection. It is in this spirit that I receive your courtesy sir, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for this unprecedented reception which I have received at the hands of your generous people.

APP Note: The President Referred to Milan Mayor Emilio Caldara.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at the Palazzo Marino in Milan, Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317740

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