Calvin Coolidge: Didn’t Get Much Done? Think Again

In difficult times, we very naturally seek out those who are often underrated and forgotten examples of courage and strength to steel ourselves for what needs to be done. When substantive heroes are wanted, we quickly find leaders like Calvin Coolidge who seem to be prepared for the occasion. Just when the times need most the qualities and perspective he possessed, an awareness and rediscovery of him is steadily and deservedly occurring. Here, contrary to the myth circulated by friends and foes alike, is a glimpse at a very productive and even busy President, who did more with less than we often realize fooled, as it were, by his carefully perfected appearance of inactivity. Even after the devastating loss of his youngest son early in his Presidency, he seemed to hunker down and work even harder not slackening his sense of duty but intensifying his efforts to serve the whole nation. His rediscovery could not come at a better time.

The Importance of the Obvious

Courtesy of the Library of Congress Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Last December when we examined the First Annual Message delivered by President Calvin Coolidge, December 6, 1923, we observed that this speech shattered the perception that Cal had nothing to say, little to offer, and even less to do. A careful look at this and the Second Annual Message, delivered in December 1924, contradict this perception. Writing at the close of his administration, Coolidge would actually make the claim that most of what he had proposed in that first address had become law by the time he would leave Washington. How did such a historically-miscast “do-nothing” get so much accomplished? We will take a look at each of his proposals in brief as they reveal a Calvin Coolidge that simply has not been allowed out in public these days because it fails to fit the caricature or desired interpretation at a given time.


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