Most people have a president that they consider their favorite. That president may be one who achieved great historical achievements, like Washington or Lincoln, or that president may be one who the person loves the platform for which they stood. Oddly, I have never met anyone else who shares the same favorite president as me. My favorite president is Calvin Coolidge.
In 2008, AOL ran a poll to determine who was America’s favorite past president and 93% of the American public chose Lincoln, Reagan, Roosevelt, Kennedy, or George Washington. Calvin Coolidge was not even listed among the presidents who received votes. Nevertheless, Coolidge holds a special place in my heart and mind.
I choose to write about him for my blog this week because he died this week in 1933. In many ways, he is unique among all of the presidents to assume the presidency. One of his unique traits is that he is the only president to be born on the 4th of July. Yet, his true uniqueness lay in his personality and the way that he would change the office of the president forever!
His story and his character are brought wonderfully to life in the book “Calvin Coolidge
” by David Greenberg. As the book shows, Coolidge was a person who would have been unlikely to win the presidency in previous decades and unlike to win the presidency in modern America. And yet, he had the unique feature of being the right president at the right time and was exactly what America needed. Unfortunately, his term ended all too soon, as many historians now speculate that had he been president, Coolidge, who spent most of his term working to prevent tax increases, would never have passed the tariffs and tax increases imposed by Hoover, which ultimately led to the great depression.
In many ways, Coolidge is like an enigma but this only increases my admiration for him. Coolidge was tight lipped and even nicknamed “Silent Cal” because he was so reserved. One day, at a presidential dinner, a woman approached President Coolidge and told him that she had made a bet with her husband that she could get him to say more than two words. The president looked at her and simply said: “You lose”. Yet, despite his tight-lipped nature, he was constantly using the newspapers and radio to reach out to the general public. His skill with public relations and his presidential radio program would later inspire FDR’s “fireside chats”.
He was a staunch conservative, yet he fought vigorously for the Civil Right of African Americans, working tireless to crush the politic might of the Klux Klux Klan, and fought for the rights of Native Americans, signing the first law granting Native Americans the status of American Citizens and returning to them their tribal lands.
Coolidge was president in a time of excess, when speakeasies populated the countryside, when the stock market was making the average man into millionaires, women were becoming flappers, and everyone was moving to the cities to get in on the party! Yet amid this time of social and cultural upheaval, Coolidge maintained old fashioned values, focused on balancing the federal budget, worked for tax cuts, and for a small federal government. In Coolidge’s entire administration, there was never a single scandal, making him one of the few modern presidents who has never even been implicated in any political scandal.
Altogether, as you can see, I am a big fan of Calvin Coolidge and I encourage everyone to read and learn a little more about him. Yet, I imagine most of you have your own favorite presidents and stories of them. Who is your favorite president?