On Christmas Eve

Calvin Coolidge with Pallophotophone

Vice President Coolidge delivers a Christmas message into the pallophotophone on December 13, 1922.

Dear friend and Coolidge scholar Jerry L. Wallace has compiled this transcription of then Vice-President Calvin Coolidge’s radio broadcast nationally over WGY (General Electric Radio), delivered on Christmas Eve in 1922. It is replicated here in full from reports in the December 25, 1922 editions of The New York Times and Washington Evening Star.

Speaking into the pallophotophone twelve days before its broadcast, Coolidge is one of the first to debut a technology that would become perhaps the most influential form of modern media: an early form of the “talkie.” It had been devised by General Electric that year combining sound film with photographic film, playing both simultaneously. It precedes magnetic recording by about twenty years, with the debut of stereo tape recording in 1943.

Coolidge had this to say that Christmas Eve, ninety-five years ago today:

“When the first Christmas came to mankind it brought the assurance that their faith and hope were justified.  It revealed the existence of an everlasting righteousness.  It established the foundation of civilization of the western world.  Through all the shifting changes of more than nineteen centuries this revelation has remained, constant, unshaken, secure.

     “Through the influence of its teachings there has come a recognition of the glory of man.  He has been raised up to his true position, ‘a little lower than the angels.’  The universal right of freedom has been acknowledged.  Obedience to authority has been sanctified.  The existence of a common brotherhood has been disclosed.  The ever-abiding obligation of service has been established.

    “These are the fundamental principles of American institutions.  They were not created by man.  They cannot be destroyed by man.  They have a higher, more imposing source, reaching from everlasting to everlasting.  To observe these principles, to live by them, to translate them into action, is the way to good citizenship, to progress and to economic success.  There is no other way.  The full significance of Christmas is not lost unless, as a part of its observance, the American people think of these things.

    “It is the realization of these great truths that warrants an abounding optimism.  They have not failed, they cannot fall.  There are times when they may appear to be rejected, but they always emerge strengthened through increasing allegiance, triumphant through enlarging victories.

    “These are the reasons why our country has no need of revolution.  What it needs is perfection.  The world waits on the extension of these principles into the practical affairs of people.  Their application will be found not in some complicated legislative enactment, not in some abstruse theory, but in the simple and homely experience of everyday life.  If more freedom is desired, it can be had by more obedience.  If there is a need of more brotherhood, it will be found in more service.  If success be sought, the way lies open through thrift and industry.  If character is wanted, it can be created by hard work and kind deeds.  This is the substance of which America has been built.

     “Of all the countries on earth ours needs the least apology.  Whatever it is desirable for a people to have, here it may be secured.  Opportunity is open.  The rewards of effort are sure and large.  They are growing better. 

    “All this leads to but one conclusion:  Preserve American institutions.  Perfect the relationships of our daily life.  Preserve and go forward, obedient to divine instruction:  ‘Be ye constant in doing well.’  That way lies our promised peace and good will of which the angels sang with joy as they beheld the miracle of the first Christmas.  The mission of America is to make that vision a reality.”

A Merry Christmas to all!

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