Europe was in shambles toward the end of World War I. In an effort to negotiate peace and bring renewed prosperity, Woodrow Wilson presented the “14 Points” to Congress — a set of principles that sought to bring about justice. Kind of epic, right?
We’ve summarized the most important highlights for you. Think of it as a Cliffs Notes for one of the most important plans for global cooperation and diplomacy, and it happened 100 years ago today.
1. What happens in Europe doesn’t always stay in Europe! Keeping things hush-hush helps no one, so diplomatic negotiations shall be open and public. No more secret agreements or secret treaties! We’re all in this together.
2. Took a boat to get here? Travel by water is for everybody and need not be restricted. Seaways and oceans are free to navigate for all in both times of war and peace.
3. Eliminate economic barriers between countries. Period. This party is open invitation for all — so long as you don’t start a fight. Everybody’s just trying to have a great time and get all the best from the open bar and buffet.
4-12. This whole World War thing has really hurt a lot of people. Let’s cooperate and help countries rebuild, allow them the resources they need to thrive and do all we can as a global community to give peace a chance.
13. CALLING ALL POLES! Poland was erased from the map of Europe for 123 years, and it’s time to bring it back. A Polish state shall be reestablished, and it should have access to the sea and assured political and economic independence and integrity. Postscript: Although world peace is still a work in progress, 100 years of Polish independence is a real thing; this week 10 million Polish-Americans will be celebrating Wilson’s bold move to return to them their own country, and strengthen the deep friendship that’s existed between our two nations. Polish statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski (who, in addition to being prime minister and foreign minister was also a virtuoso pianist and composer … and foot the bill for the building of New York City’s Washington Arch in Greenwich Village) had a sit-down with our then-president, and convinced him to make this a condition of peace negotiations. Today, Poland is a member of NATO, the European Union and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
14. We all deserve political independence, territorial integrity and peace. Therefore, an association of nations must be created to set expectations for all of us. Am I right? Yes, indeed, I am. Following these points, Wilson made it clear his intention was not to place blame or punish certain countries, but to build a world in which nations could act, within their own borders, to help their own people, and work across the aisle with other governments for the betterment of all. We’ve still got a way to go, but enjoy celebratory pierogi with your Polish friends (and raise a glass to Woodrow Wilson) this week in the name of the big anniversary. Class dismissed.
This post is sponsored by the Polish Cultural Institute New York.