From the White House, May 6, 1924

CC letter 5-6-1924

Here is a scan of a letter from the President to a Mr. Warren Ryder of Mill Valley, California. The letter, like so many of the thousands that Coolidge had typed up and personally signed, is not highly revealing. There is nothing in the way of sensational content or extraordinary disclosure. He does not explain what he will do, why he will do it, and how important it is to hear from the “folks back home,” as if that kind of condescending tone would ever come from Cal anyway. He simply writes a reply to a man he regards as his equal in citizenship. The very existence of this letter reveals something of the care with which Calvin Coolidge approached not only his public trust but the concerns and interests of every individual.

The President took the time to directly respond to his letter. No form reply, no pre-printed note, Coolidge, himself, answered. It was he who invested time in working out the kind of response each person would receive, his secretaries would then type up the letter and he would review it again, signing the correspondence that would then go out, the original document, mind you, not a professionally-produced reproduction. He did not dictate many, he once said, but he did sign many and the nearly unending flood of requests for inscribed photographs and autographs “went to all who wrote for them.”

To fulfill those requests alone illustrates something of Mr. Coolidge’s heart for people. His legendary silence, rooted in a natural shyness, was there largely to repel those who would take advantage of their proximity to powerful people, using those channels for malicious or self-seeking ends at the expense of others, including the country as a whole. It was never from meanness or callous apathy that he treated visitors to his silence. Read this letter again, carefully, and you can see he was anything but unfeeling and indifferent to the people of his beloved country. He had a full heart for each one. While Coolidge was no emotional wellspring, his simple and diligent nature appeals not only to the reason but also to those indefinable qualities of spirit abiding in the American soul. Something in his character genuinely connected with these in a way nothing else could or few others have. As such, he was worthy of the trust reposed in him, and stands forth today as a fitting example of good leadership.

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