For a new Fourth of July tradition, how about celebrating the birthday of the only president born on this date, Calvin Coolidge in 1872. Snooty liberal historians have written off Coolidge (also known as Silent Cal), who served from 1923-29, as a kindly country lawyer, in over his head, a puppet of big business, whose policies caused the Great Depression (one could counter that the big-government policies of Hoover and FDR all but guaranteed the economic misery of the 30’s). While I could write a whole volume extolling the virtues of this common-sense conservative who influenced Ronald Reagan, I really don’t want to deny those unfamiliar with him the joy of discovering him on their own.
If you consider yourself a common-sense patriot, prepare to be inspired. Hard as it is to believe, America once had a president who touted that his greatest accomplishment was “minding my own business.” Could you imagine Barack Obama saying that? Or Bill Clinton saying that with any sincerity? Silent Cal was nothing if not sincere. Yes, that is a real quote. The president, as envisioned by our founders, was never meant to be a slick-talking saviour. Coolidge is among the last of those who saw himself as more of an administrator and less of a fixer.
The president -and the man- is just that amazing in his duty and simplicity. Check out the numerous Facebook pages that have been created to preserve his legacy. Coolidge by Amity Shales is worth a read. A great evaluation of the Coolidge presidency can be found in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama by Steven Hayward. The author rates the presidents strictly by their adherence to their Constitutional duties. Spoiler alert: Coolidge is the only president to rate an A+!
By contrast, the mainstream (i.e., liberal) historians would rather slobber over Woodrow Wilson, the Barack Obama of his time, whose disdain for the Constitution helped make possible the swamp that seems all but impossible for President Trump to drain. One of the few Republicans (aside from Lincoln) favored by historians is Teddy Roosevelt, who, despite his infectious love for America, was very much a progressive. Notice a pattern here! Look beyond the conventional historical wisdom and you might be amazed!
You will see how, through brevity and reverence for tradition, Coolidge celebrated the common man and woman, and spoke often of the dignity of hard work. Writing in his autobiography that “the president is not a great man,” he invested his faith in the vision and toil of the humblest of Americans. No, he was not a tool of Big Business but a champion of the right of everyone to prosper. Accepting the presidential nomination in 1924, he said, “I want the American people to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. . . That is the chief measure of freedom.”
That was not just how he talked, but how he governed. Consider also this quote from his inaugural address: “The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny.”
You’ll find words to live by, too. After leaving office in 1929, he wrote that, “There is no dignity quite so impressive and no independence quite so important as living within your means.” Contrary to the one-dimensional portrait painted by many historians, Coolidge was an idealist who valued service and the practical lessons of time, tradition and perseverance. One of his most famous quotes extols the power of persistence. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. . . Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. . . .”
America under President Coolidge’s leadership saw peace and great prosperity. Was he perfect? As a humble man, he would be the first to tell you ‘no.’ One could argue that American leadership could have done more to hasten the Civil Rights movement, but that blight on our history extends far beyond Coolidge. And, no, he is not just a gentle relic of a forgotten time – his words resonate today as powerfully as ever. Consider his take on immigration policy: “Every race and creed that has come here in numbers has shown examples of unsurpassed loyalty and devotion to our country, But only by coming slowly, avoiding city colonies. . . We have certain standards of life that we believe are best for us. We do not ask other nations to discard theirs, but we do wish to preserve ours. . . ” YES! Countless other common-sense, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that words of wisdom await your discovery. Forget the liberal media – annoy a liberal historian and discover Calvin Coolidge this July Fourth!