When Reagan and Coolidge come up in the same sentence, it usually has something to do with Reagan’s placement of Coolidge’s portrait in the Cabinet Room shortly after Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. But not as well known is the radio program in which Reagan explained his reasons for recognizing the hidden worth of this predecessor. If the press corps had been tuning in during August of 1975, they might have better understood Reagan’s actions six years later. They might also have paused to consider what Coolidge accomplished, but then that could be asking too much. On this sixth day of February, Reagan’s one hundred and second birthday, here is an excerpt from that program entitled “Images,”
“Some day it might be worthwhile to find out how images are created–and even more worthwhile to learn how false images come into being…All of us have grown up accepting with little question certain images as accurate portraits of public figures–some living, some dead. Very seldom if ever do we ask if the images are true to the original. Even less so we question how the images were created. This is probably more true of Presidents in our country because of the intense spotlight which centers on their every move…One was Calvin Coolidge the dry, unexciting New Englander who is more often than not remembered as a lacklustre almost laughable figure who just happened to live in the White House for a while…Are these…images true or false? I’ll list a few facts & you can figure out the answer for yourself. Calvin Coolidge–the man H. L. Mencken said had been weaned on a pickle. Was he a kind of do nothing President in one of those lulls in our Nation’s history? If so we should have such lulls today. There was better than full employment–jobs were competing for workers. The cost of living went down 2.3%, the Federal budget was actually reduced and some of the National debt accumulated in WWI was paid off. During Silent Cal’s presidency the number of automobiles owned by Americans tripled and a great new industry, radio, went from $60 million in sales to $842 million. They laughed when Calvin Coolidge said ‘the business of America is business,’ but we had true peace & prosperity–those things we are promised so often but given so seldom…Well as I say you can make up your own mind about the images versus the man but maybe we ought to go back and see what they did that we aren’t doing. This is Ronald Reagan–Thanks for listening” (“Reagan In His Own Hand” pp.252-3).