Byron's Babbles

President’s Day With Woodrow Wilson

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 16, 2015

IMG_0773 On this President’s Day I want to reflect on a president who I have always been very intrigued with. Our 28th President was a successful academic who took a different path to the White House than Presidents before and after. Woodrow Wilson attended college at what is now Princeton University, studied law at the University of Virginia, and earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Wilson is our only President to have a doctorate. He later taught at Princeton, and became president of the university in 1902. As a scholar he was the leading political scientist of his day. As an academic president, he transformed Princeton into a leading university. Wilson was President of Princeton from 1902-1910.

John Milton Cooper Jr. described Wilson this way in his book Woodrow Wilson: A Biography: “Boldness and thinking big marked Wilson all his life, and those qualities helped make him the only president who rose to the top in two professions entirely removed from public affairs.” Woodrow Wilson’s experience as a transformational leader at Princeton is what I believe prepared him for political office. He was “a dynamic reformer” as Governor of New Jersey from 1910-1912. As President of the United States he led the country into and through World War I.

Leaders like Woodrow Wilson advance the cause because they see what others do not and are willing to move toward that vision. As Wilson said, “I would rather fail in a cause that would ultimately succeed, than succeed in a cause that would ultimately fail.” Such work calls for boldness. Wilson also said, “Do not follow people who stand still.” As we come to the end of President’s Day, let’s think about these questions: Are you moving to transform your organization or cause social change? Where do you need to be more bold?



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