100 years ago today, US President Woodrow Wilson became a force for peace toward the end of World War I by proposing a list of principles to be used in negotiating a treaty between nations. The Fourteen Points were outlined in a speech to Congress, and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize for his ‘Wilsonian idealism’.

He translated domestic progressive ideals—free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination— into a foreign policy that even the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin viewed as a landmark of enlightenment in international relations. (1918)

In the relatively short 1,200-word speech, Wilson directly addressed what he perceived as the causes for The Great War by calling for the abolition of secret treaties, a reduction in armaments, an adjustment in colonial claims to benefit both native peoples and colonists—and freedom of the seas (the absence of which became the reason the U.S. entered the European conflict).

The 28th president, Wilson also made proposals that would bolster world peace in the future. For example, he proposed the removal of economic barriers between nations, the promise of self-determination for national minorities, and a world organization that would guarantee the “political independence and territorial integrity of great and small states alike”—a League of Nations.

The Fourteen Points carried such authority that they became the basis for negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war, but because Wilson fell ill, France was able to advance key points in their favor, angering the Germans and fueling the rise of national socialism there.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Monaco gained its independence (1297); French people voted to grant Algeria its independence after 7 years of a guerrilla war (1961)
  • African American men were granted the right to vote in Washington, D.C., despite President Andrew Johnson’s veto (1867)
  • The African National Congress was founded (1912)
  • David Bowie, the rock star who reinvented popular music with singles such as “Space Oddity” and “Starman” was born (1947)
  • Bobby Fischer won the US Chess Championship at age 14 (1958)
  • Ella Grasso became Governor of Connecticut, the first woman Governor in the US who did not succeed her husband (1975)
  • Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov leaves for Mir, where he would stay on the space station until March 22, 1995 — a record 437 days in space (1994)

And, on this day in 1935, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Musically inspired in a local church, he moved to Memphis with his mother, Gladys, and recorded his first song at age 19 for Sun Records.

Elvis Presleys birthplace in Tupelo
The 2-room house his father built in preparation for the birth

He quickly became a chart-topping artist tapping a wide mix of influences across color lines, and the best-selling solo act in the history of recorded music.

Happy 76th birthday to Stephen Hawking, the English theoretical physicist and cosmologist whose popular science book, A Brief History of Time, was on a British best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

2015 photo by John Cairns, CC

His scientific breakthroughs include a prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. He was the first to set forth a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking has a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of ALS that has gradually paralyzed him over the decades. He uses a single cheek muscle to communicate through a speech-generating device. (1942)

Also born on this day, Graham Chapman, the English comedian, writer, actor, and founding member of Monty Python who gave up a looming medical career to become a comedian.

monty-Python-Graham Chapman-publicity-shot

He was thought to be the best actor in the Python group, and played the lead role in two of their films, Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Also notable, he replaced the toaster in one of their most famous comedy sketches with a dead Norwegian Blue parrot. Watch some memorable moments from Chapman and Monty Python… (1941-1989)