There is the old story that in the early morning hours of August 3, 1923, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge learned he was now the next leader of the free world, he walked across the street of his small village at Plymouth Notch and bought a bottle of Moxie at the local general store. A few of those on hand that night accompanied him but he declined to pay for their bottles. Or so the tale goes.
Moxie is one of the earliest carbonated beverages to be nationally mass-produced. It is still a sought drink of choice in New England. It is not your typical sugary-sweet soda. Flavored with the gentian root, it actually approaches more of a bitter taste. A similar beverage from the same root has been marketed in Switzerland. It was originally purposed as a nerve tonic with medicinal properties when Dr. Augustin Thompson of Lowell, Massachusetts, invented the Moxie recipe in 1876, when Cal was four years old.
There was a time when it even outsold Coca-Cola. Florida’s own – former Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams – became a “pitcher” for Moxie in the 1950s.
Moxie, as a result of the drink, took on another meaning, though. It entered American vernacular in the late 20s and early 30s to describe someone with courage, determination, force of character and nerve.
While the old story about Mr. Coolidge’s late night visit to the general store rings hollow for a number of reasons (compelling anyone to wake up and serve him – as the store was no longer operated by his father – is out of place with Coolidge character). It has been one of many popular pseudepigraphical narratives to attach itself to good ol’ Cal because it captures something authentic: his courage, his determination, his force of character, his nerve. It distills in story the exceptionally strong will Mr. Coolidge brought to public office. For almost six years he re-infused the White House with integrity and principle, discipline and purpose, standing by limited government, restoring respect for the law, respecting individuals of all colors and backgrounds, returning balance to State and local determination, holding to his sacred oath, and bending the might of Federal power to the constructive work of saving (instead of spending), cutting (instead of growing budgets), and paying debt (instead of borrowing ad infinitum). He poured himself into the service of the people, kept his oath, challenged the “way things are,” and for a short time began to halt and reverse what even then had been deemed unstoppably impossible. He is the “David against Goliath” among modern American Presidents.
So, despite what has been an utterly exhausting campaign season, take a look around your neighborhood. Examine your town or city. Survey your county. Don’t like the way things are? Do something about it. Look for your own local Calvin Coolidge. Look for moxie. Then do everything in your power to support it, and help him (or her) bring it to city hall, the sheriff’s office, the boards of county commissioners, superintendents’ offices, representatives, senators, governors, and who knows? …Maybe there is still a chance for one more Chief Executive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the moxie of Calvin Coolidge.