On Your Parents’ Friends

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend…” — Proverbs 27.10a

A spirited discussion around the Morrow family dinner table in the early “teens” (the 1910s, that is) found some resolute skeptics toward the contention of their host (Dwight Morrow) that Calvin Coolidge was going to be President some day. The guests seriously doubted anything of the kind, given how quiet and reserved Coolidge was. It was a marvel he was in public service at all, they countered. Mr. Morrow knew there was much more to Cal than could be seen on the outside. But the guests insisted it would never happen. Coolidge had been underestimated before, Morrow knew, and he would be again. Even Mrs. Morrow was dubious about her husband’s claim. She granted that Grace Coolidge, Coolidge’s wife, was more likely to reach national notoriety, not Calvin.

Just when it seemed that Mr. Morrow’s case would fail to convince, little Anne Morrow chimed in: “I like Mr. Coolidge,” she bravely declared. “He was the only one who asked about my sore finger.” And with that, her father rested his case. Time would prove father and daughter prescient.

Little Anne would grow up to marry Charles Lindbergh, and see Calvin Coolidge become President of the United States. The Lindberghs, Morrows, and Coolidges would retain a close connection as the years unfolded. In a letter written to her mother, March 4, 1930, Anne Morrow Lindbergh would share this story of their visit to the Coolidges. She had not forgotten her parents’ friends.

“…We called on them just to pay our respects, for about ten minutes. She [Grace] came up to me so very graciously and sweetly and said she really thought of me as nothing but “Anne.” And she asked about all of you, and Dwight and Constance [Anne’s siblings]. He was so nice too and not at all hard to talk to or clamlike as the cartoons have made him. In fact Coolidge was very amusing in that inimitable dry fashion all the time we were there. He said to C[harles], ‘You look just as well as your pictures said you were,’ then, with a look at me, ‘You look better than your pictures said.’ Talking of flying, with C[harles], he said, ‘We had a Republican senator from our section for years. He went flying in Washington. Now we have a Democrat.’ “

Guess that flying is potent stuff!

The Lindberghs would go on to meet Will Rogers a few nights later, whose humor and story-telling would always be a delight to Anne. Rogers, who shared and fully appreciated Coolidge’s keen sense of humor, kept the highest regard for both families, the Morrows and the Coolidges. To him, they were some of the finest people America had ever had, genuinely relatable folks who gave all for others and embodied the real meaning of selfless public service. Rogers, looking back on the Coolidge years as it neared its end, would write in his column on March 1, 1929,

“Mr. Coolidge, you are leaving us, and this is only a comedian’s eulogy. But I will never forget what your bosom friend, Dwight Morrow, told me that you said to him on being suddenly sworn in an office that wasn’t yours. ‘Dwight, I am not going to try and be a great President.’ That’s all you said. That will stand in my memory as the greatest remark any office-holder ever made. For no man is great if he thinks he is.

“You should be leaving without a single regret. I have told many jokes about you, and this don’t mean I am going to quite, for we love jokes about those we like…”

We still do.

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