America at the end of World War I was very much like America today. The presidents of the time were both idealistic to the point of delusion. There were questions about immigrants and immigration and America’s role in world affairs.
In the debate over joining the League of Nations, there were three groups. President Woodrow Wilson, the chief originator, and his followers, those adamantly opposed to it, and a third group, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, Senate Majority leader and chairman of the foreign relations committee of the time. He believed the league should be accepted with “reservations.” He believed America was giving up too much national sovereignty.
He rose before the Senate on Aug. 12, 1919, to give the first full statement of his position. It was one of the greatest speeches ever enunciated in America, studious and thoughtful, and pivotal to its history.
The United States never did join the League of Nations, immigration was greatly curtailed and Americans put America first. A generation was molded with the mettle to defeat the Axis powers of World War II and “make the world safe for democracy.”
Perhaps it is time again for “nation building” in the United States, with an emphasis on making America “safe for democracy.”