Thursday, June 21, 2018
Patricia O'Toole Hosts Reception at Pascal Hall to Celebrate New Book & the Camden Public Library
Patricia O’Toole is the author of five books, including The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House, and The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A former professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and a fellow of the Society of American Historians, she lives in Camden, Maine.
President from 1913 to 1921, Woodrow Wilson set a high bar for himself and the country. No president has believed more fervently in the primacy of morality in politics or the “moral force” of ideas, according to O'Toole. In The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made (Simon & Schuster; April 24, 2018), O’Toole measures Wilson by his own standards. She revisits the presidency as it was a century ago and rethinks many of the standard interpretations of Woodrow Wilson and his legacy. The result is an emotionally discerning, richly detailed portrait of a president whose ideas and actions had a profound and lasting effect on the United States and the world.
The Moralist recounts Wilson’s religious upbringing, his academic career, and his early leadership experiences as president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey. The book evaluates his unprecedented success with Congress, his grand vision of a peaceful world order, his moral blind spots—on race, women’s suffrage, and free speech in wartime—and the tragedy of a final defeat that was largely self-inflicted. Moral considerations inspired his biggest ideas, his most important acts, and his greatest political battles, according to O’Toole. “Because democracy rests on the consent of the governed, [Wilson] believed it the most moral form of government, and like many Americans before and since, he believed that the success of American democracy made the United States a morally superior nation. Wilson also believed in the power of ‘moral force,’ by which he meant the power of ideas and actions aligned with moral principles” (page 2). He made morality a hallmark of his leadership. For much of his presidency, it was an invaluable asset. But ultimately, O’Toole argues, his righteousness veered into self-righteousness and played a major part in his downfall.