It was a solemn and holy enterprise which brought Thomas Woodrow Wilson to the presidency from 1912 to 1920. Wilson was a man of considerable intellectual achievement. He was a political philosopher who envisioned democracy enhanced by the leadership of an elitist presidency, probably seeing himself at the helm. While he espoused the good of the common man, he found personal friendship almost unattainable. He was a man who spoke with unusual oratorical skills to move and lead his audiences, but he never became one with them.
Throughout his life, Wilson needed reassurance of his own personal worth. His presidency, his public speaking, his writings, his political stance, his support for such causes as the League of Nations - all contained some of the plaintive wail of a child pleading for love, affection and approval. Most frequently, for him to find any solace at all, acceptance had to be absolute, without a hint of reservation. Wilson was a man who sought desperately to control his world, to be its master, to be a pharaoh answerable to no one. Although he was a voracious reader and wrote many books, he rarely read newspapers. He would glean only enough of the current popular sentiment or trend to devise his platform. Wilson readily expounded his theories of government as well as their implementation, sometimes getting bogged down in theory. He surrounded himself with people who would say exactly what he wanted to hear on any subject. He refused the interplay of the executive and legislative branches of government, behaving contrary to his own theories on the subject.
This sketch of the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, hopefully, will illustrate the role of character in effective Presidential leadership, for his traits of character and temperament were played out most dramatically in the melodrama that was his second term.