On Groundhog Day

CC portrait-groundhog

Since it is also Groundhog Day, we would be remiss if we did not note the ten lessons Paul Batura gleaned from Bill Murray’s 1993 classic film. They bear a distinct resemblance to Calvin Coolidge’s own outlook and some of his basic principles, especially when we take the time to unwrap his cogent phrases and discover how much he says in so few words.

Batura’s ten lessons are:

1. Small town people are full of big-time wisdom

“Country life does not always have breadth, but it has depth. It is neither artificial nor superficial, but is kept close to the realities” — Coolidge, Autobiography, p.33.

“We draw our Presidents from the people. It is a wholesome thing for them to return to the people. I came from them. I wish to be one of them again”Autobiography, p.242.

2. Never stop being a student of your spouse

“For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces”Autobiography, p.93.

“I have thought of you all the time since I left home” — Coolidge, last letter to Grace, his wife, during a brief trip to New York, fall 1932. As biographer Claude M. Fuess notes, for a man of his reticence, this was an “outburst of powerful emotion” (Calvin Coolidge, Man from Vermont, p.490).

3. It’s always a good time to ask what we want out of life

“It is a very old saying that you never can tell what you can do until you try. The more I see of life the more I am convinced of the wisdom of that observation. Surprisingly few men are lacking in capacity, but they fail because they are lacking in application. Either they never learn how to work, or, having learned, they are too indolent to apply themselves with the seriousness and the attention that is necessary to solve important problems. Any reward that is worth having only comes to the industrious. The success that is made in any walk of life is measured almost exactly by the hard work that is put into it”Autobiography, p.171.

4. Happiness can be found in the very ordinary activities of life

“They criticize me for harping on the obvious. Perhaps someday I’ll write on…’The Importance of the Obvious.’ If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves” — Coolidge, “I’m a Private Citizen Now” by Bruce Barton, Meet Calvin Coolidge, p.191.

5. Misery is doing the same thing and expecting different results

“It is not dissatisfaction with our work but dissatisfaction with ourselves that is the cause of the unrest and discontent which is always manifesting itself in one form or another. We think we want to change our employment, when we really want to change ourselves” — Coolidge, ‘The Things That Are Unseen,’ June 19, 1923, The Price of Freedom, p.387.

6. Different can be good

“Progress depends very largely on the encouragement of variety…” — Coolidge, Toleration and Liberalism, October 6, 1925, Foundations of the Republic, p.296.

“All growth depends upon activity. Life is manifest only by action. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work” — Coolidge, Adequate Brevity, p.45.

7. Being attentive to people can save lives

“The realities of life are not measured by dollars and cents. The skill of the physician, the divine eloquence of the clergyman, the courage of the soldier, that which we call character in all men, are not matters of hire and salary. No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave” — Coolidge, Veto of Salary Increase, Have Faith in Massachusetts, p.84.

“I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant” — Coolidge, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925, Foundations of the Republic, p.201.

8. You could always use a little more life insurance

“A policy-holder is a better citizen. He has an interest in the well-being of the country that he has bought and paid for, a contract which guarantees a liberal payment to him and his beneficiaries. He is on the road toward some degree of economic independence and equality. He can work for the country with the assurance that the country is working for him. When persons qualify to vote they come into possession of a political estate in the nation, when they take out a policy they come into possession of a property estate in the nation. Insurance is of the essence of democracy” — Coolidge, ‘The Economics of Life Insurance,’ January 9, 1930.

9. Winter is just a season – summer will eventually come

“The ability to make the best of things, to secure progress, to learn from adversity is not to be disparaged or ignored. The creative energy of nature is not diminished but increased by the fallow season. Mankind requires a time for taking stock, for recuperation, for gathering energy for the next advance” — Coolidge, daily column, December 31, 1930

10. Seize the Day

“This universe into which we are born, with all its weaknesses and imperfections, yet with all its strength and progress, is the only one in which we can live, and we may as well make the best of it” — Coolidge, daily column, December 18, 1930

“When we come into the world the gate of gifts is closed behind us. We can do nothing about it. So far as each individual is concerned all he can do is to take the abilities he has and make the most of them. His power over the past is gone. His power over the future depends on what he does with himself in the present. If he wishes to live and progress he must work” — Coolidge, Autobiography, p.37.

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