President Coolidge’s Secret Service man, Colonel Edmund W. Starling, relates this amusing incident involving a bird and a cleverly prepared request to the Budget Director. As we will see, it was especially relished by someone known for his pranks around the White House, Mr. Coolidge.
“Dr. William A. Mann, director of the National Zoological Park, and an accomplished zoologist, was anxious to have a special grant of funds given his institution for research purposes. He and his subordinates expected to meet strong opposition from General Lord, the director of the budget, and some of the younger men cooked up an ingenious scheme. They took a luridly spectacular bird called the Malayan starling, a bird of bright yellow plumage with a black cape, and spent their lunch hours teaching him to ejaculate: ‘General Lord! What about that appropriation?’ The bird had a rich baritone voice of peculiarly piercing quality. It presently became expert. About this time a meeting of the government officials concerned with budgetary problems was arranged in the main building of the Smithsonian Institution. Vice President Dawes, General Lord, Senator Morrow, and the heads of some of the departments were there; so was President Coolidge–and so was this gorgeous Malayan starling. The bird was hung in a handsome wooden cage at a carefully chosen and most strategic point; just the point where General Lord was being introduced to the guests. After the general’s name had been repeated several times, the bird suddenly burst out in its ringing baritone voice:
‘General Lord! What about that appropriation?’
The President shook with laughter. General Lord, who thought he was being made a butt, was at first irritated, but when the situation was explained, he laughed, too–and the National Zoological Park got its appropriation” (Starling of the White House, p.230-1).