The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography - Vol. 1

By Henry F. Pringle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
AND FOR YALE

IT WAS March 18, 1909. He had been president of the United States for a scant two weeks and the nation, as it always does while the pages of an administration record are still white, was resounding with praise of William Howard Taft. Now, for the day, he was back at Yale where, thirty years before, Bill Taft '78 had been as popular as he had been big and friendly. Life had been simple then, devoid of responsibility, devoid of the burdens and the complications which make men tired and often irritable. Remembering all that, he now smiled.

"Great things have happened and luck came my way," said the President to a group of Yale undergraduates at Woodbridge Hall, "and I want to say that whatever credit is due of a personal character in the honor that came to me, I believe is due to Yale."1

In many ways the future must have seemed bright as the President walked the familiar paths under the remembered elms. Had not the country overwhelmingly elected him and rejected, as it seemed for all time, the radical and unsound doctrines of William Jennings Bryan? Were not both houses of Congress comfortably Republican? Could he not lean on his great and good friend, Theodore Roosevelt, whose word had been the voice of destiny-- Theodore, who had an uncanny and envied knack for getting along with politicians, for knowing what the people wanted, for telling the people what to want? Surely, he could always turn to Theodore.

And yet the President, even though fortified by being a son of Yale, had inner doubts. He may well have wished, for a fleeting moment as the students cheered him, that time could be halted in its fatalistic rush. The start of a journey is nearly always brighter than its end. Wherein lay his talents for this appalling role of president? He had been a lawyer, a judge. Perhaps he should have

____________________
1
Addresses, Vol. XIV, p. 10.

-31-

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