Study Guide

Walter Lippmann in Fourteen Points

By Woodrow Wilson

Walter Lippmann

Once Upon a Free Press

Do you remember a time when the newspaper existed? When you got woke up every morning to the thump of the newspaper landing on your welcome mat? When all news was hard-hitting, eloquent, and dove deep into real-deal issues?

Yeah. Us neither.

Nowadays, Walter Lippmann is remembered by journalists as a hero from an older, more respectable period of the news. Considered one of the most influential writers of his time, he had a reputation for changing minds and hearts. (Source)

Leader of the Nerds

That's probably why Woodrow Wilson tapped Lippmann to be a Head of Research for the Inquiry, the president's massive academic study of the post-World War I peace.

In other words: when he was only twenty-eight, Lippmann was tasked with coming up with new ideas about how to manage international affairs. (That would have made an epic job description for his Bachelorette profile, BTW.)

And this is what Lippmann said about the Inquiry:

What we are on the lookout for is genius—sheer, startling genius, and nothing else will do. (Source)

Humble? No, not really. Ambitious? Oh, yeah. For sure.

Map Quest

Sometimes elementary school students are tasked with coloring in world maps with crayons. Walter Lippmann had a similar, but more difficult task for the Wilson administration: redrawing the world map. What was the future of all the old European monarchies and empires and the subjects they ruled?

As one of the principal architects of the Fourteen Points, his most important job was to come up with answers to the various territorial questions posed by World War I. In other words: who gets what? If Germany took something from another country fifty years ago, would they have to give it back? (Source)

The final product—what became Wilson's Fourteen Points speech—drew on Lippmann's studies about European territories and included ideas like self-determination, as well as specific territorial points.

Unfortunately, Lippmann and his fellow thinkers found implementing their ideas much more difficult than dreaming up solutions. When he attended the Paris Peace Conference, Lippmann was dismayed at the Allies' desire to punish Germany. Disappointed with his experience in American diplomacy, he went back to the newspaper business and argued against the League of Nations—which he had helped dream up. (Source)

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