Interviewing the ever-insightful scholar Paul Johnson, Brian M. Carney discusses why ideas matter more than people and how the World’s deepest thinkers have been anti-intellectuals. Johnson, who has explained the substance behind Coolidge’s record in “The Last Arcadia,” chapter 6 of his book Modern Times, keeps an enduring confidence that Americans will find a renewed strength from the power of its founding ideals. This unshakable faith in the people of the country to summon both the will and the work to clean up the mess left by a self-anointed ruling class of intellectuals is right at home with the full assurance Calvin Coolidge held toward Americans as a people. Our thirtieth president, the last to earn a classical education, would firmly agree with Mr. Johnson. In fact, Coolidge would likely find himself quite at home with the most profound philosopher of civilization (a distant second to Christ, of course), the plain, simple-living, anti-intellectual Socrates.
“We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. It is on that side of life that it is desirable to put the emphasis at the present time. If that side be strengthened, the other side will take care of itself. It is that side which is the foundation of all else. If the foundation be firm, the superstructure will stand” — Calvin Coolidge, June 19, 1923, “The Things That Are Unseen,” delivered at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.
“We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp” — July 5, 1926, spoken at the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia.