The annual meeting of the Veterans Roundtable, which began in 2002, commenced Thursday evening at Emporia State University in the Preston Family Room.
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Leon D. Bryson welcomed about 35 attendees, ranging from young college students to older veterans and many curious community members in between. The program, presented by Professor of History Gregory Schneider, covered the Treaty of Versailles — what led to it, what it was and the consequences it wrought.
This year marks the 100th year since the Treaty of Versailles failed to get ratified in the United States Senate; 1918 marked the end of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson presented the treaty to the Senate with an additional League of Nations Charter and would not budge on negotiating the terms within it. Outside of the U.S., the League was established, but the U.S. did not become a member.
“I needed to show the background and what was discussed and why it was a failed treaty,” Schneider said.
Part of his focus attended to how the failed treaty affected the world post-1919, including being part of the German fuel for World War II and some of the ways the treaty’s failure influences the present-day Arab states issues.
“Maybe Wilson didn’t have the wrong ideas, even though I think he was part of the problem, too, in trying to sell this too much without making compromises with the Republicans and getting the treaty ratified by the United States, because we never ratified it,” Schneider said.
Community member John Schmidt said he attended the meeting because he wanted to learn more about the Treaty of Versailles and that timeframe in history.
“It answered some questions I had with regard to how nations developed a need to communicate, how nations needed to stop being imperial land grabbers, how the League of Nations was formed and why, what implications the Treaty of Versailles resulted in” and more, Schmidt said.
Schneider said the presentation also functioned as “warning about how you need to negotiate treaties and peaces that have some chance at succeeding, that it can’t just be punitive.”
“I believe in free trade,” Schmidt said. “Kansas relies on free trade to sell our products worldwide. Without it, our economy itself could be threatened. And as an American with German heritage, I’m worried about that.”
Local historian Roger Heineken shared an additional unique aspect of Emporia’s placement within the Versailles Conference. William Allen White visited the conference and brought with him 18-year-old William Lindsay White, who functioned as his father’s personal assistant.
The event was sponsored by ESU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Social Sciences. The Veterans Roundtable is part of Emporia’s All Veterans Tribute.