He was the only US president to spend most of his adult life in academic groves. He was the ultimate public intellectual. He was both rational and emotional, loner and populist, introspective and inspirational. He employed his second-tenor voice to reach the highest notes of morality and idealism, daring to dream of a perfect world and then, thwarted in his effort to win American entry into an international forum to assure lasting peace, refused to compromise to win merely a better world.
He moved the country from isolationism to interventionism and then to internationalism. The reception he received as the first president to visit Europe (and the first person to receive an honorary degree from the Sorbonne in the university’s seven centuries) was astonishing, but so was the challenge he faced: negotiating first with hard-faced and hard-headed Europeans, those moved by realpolitik and not romance, immune to his charms and contemptuous of his idealism, and then tangling with American politicians determined to ruin his plans — and his presidency.