On the Mystery of Coolidge

Dr. Elihu Grant, who taught literature at Smith College, lived directly across from “Mr. Coolidge” for ten years. He was a prolific writer and “groundbreaking” excavator of areas around ancient Jerusalem. He offers this appraisal of the neighbor who would become President of the United States,

     “I never was one of those who felt free to call him ‘Cal,’ but always thought of him as ‘Mr. Coolidge’…Others had their ups and downs in the political game. He was always going up. People had confidence in him and he never went backwards from any position which he held in the respect of his fellow-townsfolk. He always seemed to have his object clearly in mind and went straight for it. His method was one of industry and persistence. If a nomination was to be secured, he often made his major efforts before the possible opposition had begun. By the time of the election, he seemed to have the whole matter discounted in his own mind so that he was full ready to attend to business as soon as he was invited to take charge.

     “He has often been referred to as a man of mystery. It seems to me that there is no special mystery about him. Men of his type are not infrequently seen in New England. One finds them in the law, in the ministry and other professions, in business, and in the town-meetings. The remarkable thing about Mr. Coolidge is that he has so many of the characteristics of the type and that he has them in such perfect blend. He seeks nothing mysterious, and he neither says nor does anything mysterious. He is straight and strenuous in his quiet way. There is not a trace of affectation about him. He is natively modest. He simply does not care for unreality. He does care tremendously for the real, a real job, a real achievement. His actions always run far ahead of his words, and they are in the same direction.”

What to some appeared mysterious was not a mystery at all. It was simply a man who lived with full awareness and confidence in reality. Pursuit of the artificial substitutes work for intentions and accomplishment with wishful promises. The artificial denies what is really there and is too weak a basis on which to lead one’s life. Living in reality takes courage and discipline. That is what makes creating a world of blissful ignorance without responsibilities so alluring to many. Coolidge, by choosing to live in reality, demanded more than so flimsy a foundation as that.


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