The man who had not mentioned foreign policy at all in his inaugural address four years earlier now had only one subject on his mind: war.
"We are provincials no longer," he assured his listeners, noting that the struggle for Europe had made the Americans "citizens of the world." Finally, less than a month later, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.
Nevertheless, American politicians today justify military intervention with the same arguments Wilson used to convince the country to put an end to its isolation and intervene in Europe.
But Wilson managed to draw America's attention back to Europe.
After the Bolsheviks had overthrown the czarist regime in Russia, Wilson spoke of a war between democracy and the forces of absolutism.
German historian Karl Dietrich Erdmann characterized 1917 as an "epochal year in world history." Washington's entry into the war and the October Revolution in Russia, Erdmann argues, ensured that Europe had lost its role as the principal player in world history.
At the same time, China is staking its claim to natural resources, intimidating its neighbors and developing massive naval power to secure its trade routes.
In taking these steps, China could easily become a rival to another world power, the United States of America, which would assume the role once played by Great Britain in this historical comparison.
For the next century, the old continent was more or less at the center of American policy.
Only today -- under a president who, like Wilson, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has a penchant for idealism and stirring speeches -- is Europe apparently sinking into the background once again as Washington responds to the allure of dynamic Asia.