Americans wanted to know how the president planned to end the Great War and prevent the next one.
And so, on September 27, 1918, Woodrow Wilson took to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. There, amid the beaux arts glitter and gilt, he declared that what the world needed was a League of Nations.
The president expected it to be the speech of his life, but he was disappointed. As Edward House, Wilson’s chief confidant, wrote in his diary: “Most of [the speech] seemed somewhat over the[ir] heads…. [T]he parts that were unimportant [brought] the most vigorous applause.”
People cheered when Wilson affirmed he would treat our enemies like enemies and not negotiate with the Central Powers. But they scratched their heads over the idea that, once victory was achieved, we’d secure peace for all time by creating an international organization to dispense “impartial justice.”