Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
1914 October 24
Excerpt from an address given by Woodrow Wilson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the YMCA.
Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York Historical Society, New York
I am interested in the Young Men’s Christian Association because it is an association of young men who are Christians. I wonder if we attach sufficient importance to Christianity as a mere instrumentality in the life of mankind. For one, I am not fond of thinking of Christianity as the means of saving individual souls. I have always been very impatient of processes and institutions which said that their purpose was to put every man in the way of developing his character. My advice is: Do not think about your character. If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself. Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig. The only way your powers can become great is by exerting them outside the circle of your own narrow, special, selfish interests. And that is the reason of Christianity. Christ came into the world to save others, not to save himself; and no man is a true Christian who does not think constantly of how he can lift his brother, how he can assist his friend, how he can enlighten mankind, how he can make virtue the rule of conduct in the circle in which he lives. (Extract from address at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 24, 1914.)
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “YMCA Speech,” 1914 October 24, WWP15032, Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History Woodrow Wilson Documents, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.