On Discontent

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Coolidge at home, Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Photo credit: Leslie Jones collection.

I am not unaware that there is a certain discontent that pervades all sorts and conditions of society. There is a kind of discontent that ought to be encouraged because it is the foundation of all progress and all advance in human development.

There are those that are not contented with the amount of education that they have, and they are therefore applying themselves in our schools and institutions of learning; and that is to the public advantage. 

There are those that are discontented with their general condition, think that they are not living the lives that they ought to live, and they are changing their methods of life, joining the church perhaps, and determining to live better in the future; that is for the advantage of the public. 

There are those that think they are not accomplishing enough from their efforts and they are determining that they will work a little harder in the future and do a little more and produce a little more and be more industrious than they have been in the past; that is a discontent that is for the public welfare. 

These sources of discontent are discontent with ourselves and wherever you find that as a condition, you have a foundation laid for the betterment of mankind. There is another kind of discontent that doesn’t look so encouraging; it is the discontent of those who want to profit without any effort; it is the discontent of those who want to control without any ownership, and to rule without legal authority and responsibility, and in this Nation of ours which we boast is made up of kings, they want to rule without being subjects; these are the people that are discontented with others, and that kind of discontent isn’t one on which you can base any progress or one on which we can expect the world to go forward…

— Calvin Coolidge, excerpt from an address before the Massachusetts Medical Society, June 9, 1920

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