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Four Questions for Monique Seefried about April 6, 2017

"We live to this day in the shadows of the Great War"

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is preparing for a major national event on April 6th, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the war. The event will take place at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Monique Brouillet Seefried, Ph.D., is a Commissioner on the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. Seefried has been a regular lecturer on World War I, its causes and its consequences. She talks with us about the event, the significance of the Centennial of WW1, and why the decision by the U.S. to enter the war is so important to commemorate..

How will the Centennial of America’s entry into the war be commemorated during this event?

monique brouillet 200Monique Brouillet Seefried, Ph.D.The Centennial Commemoration of the United States entry in World War I will be held at the World War I Memorial and Museum in Kansas City. The national debate that took place over 100 years ago, and led to the decision by the United States to enter a war hoped to be the war to end all wars, will be captured in an event including visual montages, music, and readings of contemporary letters, poetry, etc. by prominent actors and public figures.

A reading of the declaration of war on April 6, 1917 will be followed by flyovers by U.S. military aircraft and the Patrouille de France, while military bands, color guards, ceremonial units will be standing by.

The artistic director for the event is Edward Bilous, Director of the Center for Innovation in the Arts at the Juilliard School. It will be streamed to classrooms across the country and available to posts, schools and civic groups for rebroadcast.

Why will the event be held in Kansas City? What is the significance of Kansas City to World War I?

After what was then known as the Great War, leading citizens of Kansas City, a railroad center in the center of the United States where veterans from all over the country could easily gather, decided to erect a memorial to the Americans who served during WWI.

This memorial, named Liberty Memorial, was inaugurated in 1926 by President Coolidge after a groundbreaking ceremony in 1921 attended by the military leaders of the Allies nations who fought on the Western Front: Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and General John Pershing of the United States. Presiding over the ground-breaking ceremony as vice president of the United States, it was as president of the country that President Coolidge attended the inauguration and pronounced the words that embody the meaning of the Liberty Memorial, a memorial that had not “been raised to commemorate war and victory, but rather the results of war and victory which are embodied in peace and liberty....”

Libert Memorial military leaders 1921 500Allied commanders together at the dedication of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City on November 1, 1921. (L to R) Lieutenant General Jacques of Belgium, General Diaz of Italy, Marshall Foch of France, General Pershing of the United States, and Admiral Beatty of Great Britain.It is to honor this Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace that the Liberty Memorial, since 2014 the National World War I Museum and Memorial, was chosen by the United States World War I Centennial Commission to commemorate with a national event the entry of the United States into World War I.

Who will be attending the event?

The WWICC has invited the President and Vice President of the United States as well as Congressional leaders, Cabinet members, State governors and U.S. military leaders to attend the event, in the presence of veterans’ organizations, including those representing historic U.S. military units, descendants of significant American figures in World War I and dignitaries with a World War I connection from every part of the country.

Heads of State, or their representatives, of all nations whose people saw combat in World War I have been invited to attend the event.

The Heads of State from countries the American Expeditionary Forces served under, until it fought as an independent U.S. Army, or fought against, have been invited to participate in the ceremony. Those are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

What would you say is the significance of the War for America today? What about the war is so important to commemorate?

World War I was the shaping event of the twentieth century. It created a completely different world order, breaking up European dominance in the world, giving birth to communism and fascism and the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism. We live to this day in the shadows of the Great War, and the conflict zones of today, in the Balkans, Ukraine, the Middle East and the South China seas are direct consequences of World War I.

World War I transformed the United States from a debtor to a creditor country, launched it as a international power, started the trans-Atlantic alliance, led to the right to vote for women and American Indians, launched the civil rights movement and gave all citizens of the nation a sense of American identity.

Remembering World War I is essential:

  • To honor all the Americans who served in the war, at home and abroad, as well as all those who gave their life and ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten
  • To educate all Americans, especially new generations of Americans, about the causes and consequences of the war, political and economic, as well as technological, scientific, cultural and artistic. Learning about the road to the war and the failed peace that ensued should help our country to ensure that mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. The United States should continue to learn from the lessons of this great tragedy to plan for the future of our nation and its continuous contribution to world peace.