Published online Jan. 4, 2018
I had the privilege to spend my junior year (1959-60) as a Fulbright scholar in Princeton, attending the Woodrow Wilson School. I am proud of that and find it hard to understand that persons who without doubt have made unparalleled contributions to the development of a nation, or the world in general, be condemned because parts of their thinking in retrospect appear adversarial to the political standards that dominate in later generations. The contributions of few would survive if we held to this standard all historical figures of substance.
The students who occupied the president’s office quoted Martin Luther King’s heroic fight for equal rights. Were these aware that Martin Luther, the great reformer, the man for whom King was named, held harsh prejudices, including anti-Semitic convictions that were published a number of times? Although today we certainly don’t agree with such sentiments, we can still herald Martin Luther for the courageous acts that he took to instigate reformation. In 2017 the 500th anniversary of the beginning of reformation was commemorated, with many festivities all over the world.
In the case of Martin Luther, the world has taken a different approach, perhaps one that the students who are critical of Woodrow Wilson 1879 may bear in mind. While the failures of this man are easily apparent, especially when viewed from the modern perspective, the greatness of his accomplishments transcend and are recognized well beyond his foibles as an individual.