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Ideas

10 ways of looking at Woodrow Wilson

A century after taking office, the 26th president is still a lightning rod.

Woodrow Wilson took office on March 4, 1913, exactly 100 years ago. He has never quite entered the pantheon of iconic presidents—no head on Mount Rushmore or memorial in Washington. Today, if anything, Wilson comes down to us as a bit bland and remote, a former university president and the bespectacled son of a Presbyterian minister. But in his day he was among the most controversial presidents in American history, sending millions of American troops to Europe in World War I and laying the groundwork for the United Nations.

In the century since his inauguration, the mild-looking Wilson has been labeled everything from Christ-like hero to Hitler-like villain. Today the argument over Wilson is still very much alive—and offers a striking picture of the wild swings and strange afterlife of political reputations.

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