Dr. Tacoma has authored another excellent piece reminding us of that unjustly forgotten hero of constitutional leadership, Calvin Coolidge. On this Constitution Day, we can recall not only the men and women of all backgrounds who stood with him for (not merely against) the name at the front of the ticket because his actions remained consistent with his words. We can continue to learn a great deal from not-so-silent Cal.
When Calvin Coolidge spoke of work, and he spoke about it quite often, the dignity all work possessed was never far from his thoughts. He simply did not differentiate between white collar or blue collar or any collar at all. Nor was there a class or caste of the subservient in his eyes. Everything people could dream of doing, however menial or irrelevant it may appear to “the great” — so long as it was morally right and legally allowed, of course — was worthy and ennobling. If imaginations were allowed full ability to reach for the stars (enjoying the fullest possible rewards those ideas could call into being), he considered any kind of work a full-fledged partner in the beautiful kaleidoscope of human potential. There was no job people could do that was beneath them or fitted only to some social or economic underclass. In the effort of simply sweeping the floor, there was a dignity no regal authority could usurp. If we all did well in the small things, we could all be entrusted with greater (and still greater) things. At the same time, there was no fairness or rightness in entrusting those who had proven unfit for the little tasks to be given broad, sweeping power over vast decisions affecting many lives. Life itself required patience and self-government if we were ever to govern any one else. Coolidge had learned that lesson long ago as a boy. He would articulate that truth as a man even while responsible for decisions that could deploy fleets, decimate livelihoods, and redirect the course of entire nations with a single word.
Labor Day to Coolidge was not merely an excuse to relax in idleness, honoring some right to be lazy, but to celebrate the occasion through the exercise of what liberates everyone from the shackles of ignorance, ossification, and privation: Work. It was in creation, innovation, even service, but, also the determination to enact big dreams that we discovered something important about ourselves, perhaps even obvious, but absolutely irreplaceable. As he would say, “cynics do not create” and “savages do not work.” Without work, we can be sure of two outcomes: no achievements will ever defy the nay-sayer and no human being will ever transcend the low station others assign you. Coolidge dares you to prove them wrong. Take him up on it.
Mr. Maury Thompson, scholar on the life and legacy of Charles Evans Hughes, has a fascinating article over at the New York Almanac not only about the long-forgotten Jolson but also the campaign (comprising the ticket of Harding and Coolidge) that won in truly historic proportions one hundred years ago this November. Moreover, we catch an instructive glimpse of Charles E. Hughes’ role in that campaign. Hughes, too, is regrettably overlooked these days. He shouldn’t be and Mr. Thompson is working to remedy that.
Check it out and stay tuned for more from Mr. Thompson here at The Importance of the Obvious!