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How did we get here? Part 13

Lead Summary
(Continued from last week.)

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Chronologically, we jumped over Woodrow Wilson last week to get to a good guy – George Washington Carver. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) is, in my opinion, one of the most destructive presidents in the history of the United States, and by extension, as a world leader.

An elite among elites, he was a racist Virginian, an academic so arrogant he seldom sought counsel but his own. Wilson gave us the income tax, the federal reserve system and, further, gave the world the disastrous Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. This treaty was the genesis of World War II, only 20 years later.

The United States, and the world as a whole still suffer under the long-ago machinations of this pompous…well, you get the idea. Late in his second term, while trying to pitch the Paris Peace Treaty and the doomed League of Nations during a long whistle-stop tour, he suffered a stroke in Pueblo, Colo., from which he never recovered. It is believed his wife acted as quasi-president after this stroke. Officials would give her papers for Wilson to review, she would take him to his bedroom and come back with his signature. No evidence that he had the cognitive power to understand what was placed before him. (Sound familiar?)

• Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was born in modern day Croatia. He came to the United States in 1884. He worked for Thomas Edison for a short period of time, but they split over the argument of the superiority of alternating current over direct current. Thereafter, Tesla linked up with George Westinghouse, and they built the backbone of our modern electrical system.

Edison got the publicity. Tesla made it happen. Tesla’s thinking was so far out of the box that many of his discoveries were put aside and only acted upon in the last 30 or 40 years, long after his death.

Elon Musk has now made Tesla famous by naming his automobile brand in his honor, but likely most do not know the back story on this. We owe much of the conveniences of modern life to Tesla, including the perfection of Marconi’s wireless.

• Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) is often considered the first modern president. A sickly child, he forced himself to become a robust adult, embracing boxing, cow punching and soldiering, not because he needed to but because he wanted such a life.

He is labeled a Republican, politically, but he behaved more like a Democrat. The Republican Party decided he was a kook and that the safest place to keep him tucked away was as vice president to William McKinley. However, these leaders had not placed Leon Czolgosz into their calculus.

Leon assassinated McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. This exposition, in close proximity to Niagara Falls, was in part a celebration of the Tesla/Westinghouse electrical system, which has just begun operating at the falls.

Roosevelt implemented many reforms, largely good for the county. An inveterate narcissist, his daughter Alice said her dad had to be “the bride at every wedding, the baby at every christening and the corpse at every funeral.”

When asked why he could not better control his grown daughter, the same Alice, Roosevelt replied, “I can either be president of the United States or manage Alice.”

Roosevelt’s attempt to get back into the presidential race of 1912 split the ticket on the Republican side between William Howard Taft and Roosevelt, easily handing the election to Woodrow Wilson (see above). So, in my book, Roosevelt shares some of the blame for the disastrous policies of Wilson due to his insistence on returning to presidential politics. Alice was right.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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