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President Wilson asks Congress to approve the War against Germany

Speaker: Woodrow Wilson
Delivered On: 4/2/1917
Place: Washington DC
Subject: Declaration of War, Addressing Congress
Audio/Video Available:

Description: Although Wilson spent the majority of his first term trying to keep the war out of the United States by declaring neutrality, he realized in 1917 that was no longer possible. He wanted to keep democracy safe on an international level, so on April 2, 1917, he asked Congress to officially declare war against Germany. Wilson claimed that the United States had a moral obligation to help fight for the foundational principles upon which this country was built. Here, we’re presenting an audio version detailing Wilson’s request of Congress to approve the war against Germany.

The events about to unfold before us happened over 40 years ago. Perhaps you were among the crowds that stormed the capital on that fateful day in 1917. Some shouting for war, some crying for peace. Inside the White House, President Woodrow Wilson conferred with advisers and signed the proclamation of war against Germany and then, present here our God. But preserved on Pathé film this moment of history remains.

The news flashed on the latest wireless transmitter. Headlines told the story to the people of America. While the parlor radio was still years in the future. Everywhere there was cheering and waving of flags. Hindsight or cynicism might make us smile at the thought that this war was sometimes called The Great Adventure. Never again would we see our entry into a major conflict excite so many with such hypes of elation. Naive? Probably.

But here was a generation of young men not yet saturated by the paralyzing variety of self analysis and the mock sciences. They believed. It is said that behind every man there's a woman. And America's women were daintily, but mightily.

In the lead was General John J. Pershing, who had chased [Della] in Mexico, and who know found himself chased in turn by the shrill Bobbysox Brigade of 1917. Appointed to head the American Expeditionary force, which mainly had to be built from scratch, Blackjack Pershing became a national hero. Crowds cheered his every appearance. Like this one, at an athletic meet featuring a frantic 100 yard dash by the Bloomer girl.

On June 5th, 1917, 10 million men got in line, as every American between the ages of 21 and 30 registered for the first US draft since the Civil War. On July 20th, Secretary of War, Baker, pulled a number from a goldfish bowl and the great draft lottery was on. For more than 14 hours straight officials drew numbers to determine the order in which the men were to be called to the colors.

Across the nation excited crowds watched bulletin boards, like this one run by a Jewish language newspaper. A soldier to be sees his number come up and he goes jubilantly off. His head filled with dreams of glory. Soon the streets resounded to the departing draftees.

By December 15th more than a half million men were in training camps. The United States had to change its old ways of doing things. Affecting industry, government, and Americans everywhere, the conversion was miraculously swift. We prepared to place our might into the battle line. A formidable rock of resistance in this milestone of the century.

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