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The death of former President Woodrow Wilson has called forth such a storm of belated eulogy as few men have ever received. That praise which during his active life-time was so conspicuous by its rarity is now being poured out with a fulsome enthusiasm from all sides, except possibly from the Germans, who so materially benefited by his generosity and idealism at the Peace Conference.
The keynote, perhaps, of all the tributes is sounded by Mr. Lloyd George, "True, he was a failure, but a glorious failure. He failed as Jesus Christ failed, and like Christ, sacrificed his life in pursuance of his noble ideal."
From this point of view, every great man has been a failure, and must always be a failure The greatest men have been those whose ideals and conceptions have been generations, even centuries ahead of the ideals and conceptions of their contemporaries. It success is to consist in elevating humanity to the higher levels of the genius in his own single lifetime, there can never be a successful man. The minds of human beings develop steadily but slowly; the conception of a United States of America was impossible in the Middle Ages; the conception of a United States of the world is too big for most men to grasp in 1924. But this should not result in branding the few whose vision so far outstrips the rest as "failures."
The idea of failure must be revised. A man who has left a definite ideal implanted in the minds of thousands of his followers--mainly because they were his followers by the way, and not because they were intelligent enough to understand or to visualize it--who has created a definite goal, toward which all nations will find themselves irresistibly urged in the perhaps not distant future, cannot be said to have failed. It is true that he could not perform the impossible task of instantly overcoming the inborn inhibitions and accumulated prejudices of the Senate, or of the American people or of the world. It is unfortunately true that he had no way of raising mankind to his own mental plane. But if Woodrow Wilson "failed," failure takes on a new significance; it is manifestly impossible to succeed; to "fail" is influitely more glorious than to do nothing.
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