It’s been quite a summer for statues of American Presidents popping up all over Europe. I myself visited the Ronald Reagan statue in Budapest in July. This week it was Woodrow Wilson’s turn to have his statue unveiled in an Eastern European city. Or rather it was Woodrow’s second turn.
The new statue of Woodrow Wilson has been unveiled on the exact spot where his previous statue stood, in the square named after him, just outside the main railway station in Prague.
The original had been erected in 1924 as an appreciation by the people of the then Czechoslovakia as Wilson was seen by them as instrumental to the independence of their new country in the reordering of Europe following the Great War. There was an inscription on its side which read in Czech and English “The world must be safe for democracy”.
However, it did not survive the Nazi occupation, when it was torn down and melted into bullets. An attempt was made thereafter to remember the site of the statue by the placing of a plaque which read “Here once stood a statue to Woodrow Wilson, and someday it will be rebuilt by Americans of Czech descent”. This in turn was destroyed by the Communists.
That day though, was Wednesday, when Madeleine Albright a former American Secretary of State returned to the land of her birth to unveil the statue before a large crowd. She gave a speech “In an era” she said “when other leaders saw a global chessboard with the imperial powers as players and everyone else as pawns, Wilson…believed that law should apply equally to big nations and to small, and that every country had a duty to defend this principle“. A lesson still to be learned today.
Woodrow Wilson was not himself well born, or in any way an oligarch, being the son of a Presbyterian Professor of Theology, whose family came out from Scotland with his grandfather. He married, as his second wife, Edith Bolling of Virginia who was frightfully well bred and eminently placed to bring him into the circle of oligarchy and who was a direct descendant of Pocahontas, as she never tired of telling people.
Copyright David Macadam 2011