Woodrow Wilson photo

Remarks at the University of Turin, Italy

January 06, 1919

Mr. Rector, Gentlemen of the Faculties of the University, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is with a feeling of being in very familiar scenes that I come here to-day. So soon as I entered the quadrangle and heard the voices of the students it seemed to me as if the greater part of my life had come back to me, and I am particularly honored that this distinguished university should have received me among its sons. It will always be a matter of pride with me to remember this association and the very generous words in which these honors have been conferred upon mo.

When I think seriously of the significance of a ceremony like this, some very interesting reflections come to my mind, because, after all, the comradeships of letters, the intercommunications of thought, are among the permanent things of the world. There was a time when scholars, speaking in the beautiful language in which the last address was made, were the only international characters of the world; when there was only one international community; the community of scholars. As ability to read and write has extended, international intercommunication has extended. But one permanent common possession has remained, and that is the validity of sound thinking. When men have thought along the lines of philosophy, have had revealed to them the visions of poetry, have worked out in their studies the permanent lines of law, have realized the great impulses of humanity, and then begun to advance human life materially by the instrumentalities of science, they have been weaving a human web which no power can permanently tear and destroy. And so in being taken into the comradeship of this university I feel that I am being taken into one of those things which will always bind the nations together. After all, when we are seeking peace, we are seeking nothing else than this, that men shall think the same thoughts, govern their conduct by the same ideals, entertain the same purposes, love their own people, but also love humanity, and above all else, love that great and indestructible thing which we call justice and right.

These things are greater than we are. These are our real masters, for they dominate our spirits, and the universities will have forgotten their duty when they cease to weave this immortal web. It is one of the chief griefs of this great war that the universities of the Central Empires used the thoughts of science to destroy mankind. It is the duty of the great universities of Italy and of the rest of the world to redeem science from this disgrace, to show that the pulse of humanity beats in the classroom, that the pulse of humanity also beats in the laboratory, and that there are sought out, not the secrets of death but the secrets of life.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at the University of Turin, Italy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317809

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