Woodrow Wilson photo

Remarks at The Philharmonic Club in Turin, Italy

January 06, 1919

Mr. Mayor, Your Excellency, Fellow Citizens:

You show your welcome in many delightful ways and in no more delightful way than that in which you have shown it in this room. The words which the mayor has uttered have touched me very much and I have been most touched and stimulated by the words which Senor Postorelli has so kindly uttered in behalf of the Government of this great kingdom. It is very delightful to feel my association with that government and with this city. I know how much of the vitality of Italian effort comes out of this great center of industry and of thought. As I passed through your streets I had this sensation, a sensation which I have often had in my own dear country at home—a sensation of friendship and close sympathetic contact. I could have believed myself in an American city. And I felt more than that. I felt, as I have also felt at home, that the real blood of the country flowed there in the street, in the veins of those plain people who more than some of the rest of us have borne the stress and burden of the war.

Because think of the price at which you and at which we have purchased the victory which we have won. Think of the price of blood and treasure not only, but the price of tears, the price of hunger on the part of little children, the hopes delayed, the dismay of the prospects, that bore heavy upon the homes of simple people everywhere. That is the price of liberty. Those of us who plan battles, those of us who conceive policies, do not bear the burden of it. We direct and others execute. We plan and others suffer, and the conquest of spirit is greater than the conquest of arms. These are the people that hold tight. These are the people that never let go and say nothing. They merely live from day to day, determined that the glory of Italy or the glory of the United States shall not depart from her. I have been thinking as I have passed through your streets and sat here that this was the place of the labors of the great Cavour, and I have thought how impossible many of the things that have happened in Italy since, how impossible the great achievements of Italy in the last three years, would have been without the work of Cavour. Ever since I was a boy one of my treasured portraits has been a portrait of Cavour; because I had read about him, of the way in which his mind took in the nation, the national scope of it, of the strong determined patriotic endeavor that never allowed obstacles to dismay him, and of the way he always stood at the side of the King and planned the great things which the King was enabled to accomplish.

And I have another thought. This is a great industrial center. Perhaps you gentlemen think of the members of your Government and the members of the other governments who are going to confer now at Paris as the real makers of war and of peace. We are not. You are the makers of war and of peace. The pulse of the modern world beats on the farm and in the mine and in the factory. The plans of the modern world are made in the counting house. The men who do the business of the world now shape the destinies of the world, and peace or war is in large measure in the hands of those who conduct the commerce of the world. That is one reason why unless we establish friendships, unless we establish sympathies, we clog all the processes of modern life. As I have several times said, you can not trade with a man who does not trust you, and you will not trade with a man whom you do not trust. Trust is the very life and breadth of business; and suspicion, unjust national rivalry stands in the way of trade, stands in the way of industry. A country is owned and dominated by the capital that is invested in it. I do not need to instruct you gentlemen in that fundamental idea. In proportion as foreign capital comes in among you and takes its hold, in that proportion does foreign influence come in and take its hold. And therefore the processes of capital are in a certain sense the processes of conquest.

I have only this to suggest, therefore. We go to Paris to conclude a peace. You stay here to continue it. We start the peace. It is your duty to continue it. We can only make the large conclusions. You constantly transact the details which constitute the processes of the life of nations.

And so it is very delightful to me to stand in this company and feel that we are not foreigners to each other. We think the same thoughts. We entertain the same purposes. We have the same ideals; and this war has done this inestimable service: It has brought nations into close vital contact, so that they feel the pulses that are in each other, so that they know the purposes by which each is animated. We know in America a great deal about Italy, because we have so many Italian fellow citizens. When Baron Soninno was arguing the other day for the extension of the sovereignty of Italy over Italian populations, I said, "I am sorry we can not let you have New York, which, I understand, is the greatest Italian city in the world." I am told that there are more Italians in New York City than in any city in Italy, and I am proud to be President of a Nation which contains so large an element of the Italian race, because, as a student of literature, I know the genius that has originated in this great nation, the genius of thought and of poetry and of philosophy and of music, and I am happy to be a part of a Nation which is enriched and made better by the introduction of such elements of genius and of inspiration.

May I not again thank the representative of this great city and the representative of the Government for the welcome they have given me, and say again, for I can not say it too often, Viva l'ltalia?

APP Note: The President dined for lunch at the Philharmonic Academy. The President referred to Turin Mayor Secondo Frola, to others we have not identified, and to Baron Sidney Costantino Sonnino, Italian Foreign Minister.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at The Philharmonic Club in Turin, Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317792

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives