Read by the new Program and Editorial Associate of the Coolidge Foundation, Rushad Thomas, here is the first installment of the finest Presidential memoirs ever written. It is aptly suited for reading, written as it was for child and adult alike. Listen carefully, take time to reflect on the observations and insights offered and be ready to learn from one of the wisest and most underestimated of our Presidents.
The Armenian Weekly reports that a second edition of Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian’s inspiring book, President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug has been produced by the Armenian Cultural Foundation and is available upon request. It has already been published in German, Russian and Armenian. This article recaps the controversy that erupted in December of last year when the White House refused to display the Ghazir rug (aka “Coolidge rug”) in conjunction with the Smithsonian, the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Rugs Society. The reason? It was deemed “inappropriate” for an event that included the launch of a book. After intense and justified outrage, the White House has relented and the event will go forward — a testament to the strength of Americans who unify behind a noble purpose. It is also an occasion to remember all those who generously met the emergency and gave freely of their time, their resources and themselves to rescue, treat, educate and love the orphans of Armenia. How many lives have been rescued and improved thanks to the army of American volunteers who responded when the need arose? These are memories worth cherishing not hiding or marginalizing. It is noteworthy that Coolidge was the custodian of this wonderful gift to the United States and thanks to his regard and respect for the bonds strengthened between Americans and Armenians through mutual sacrifice, it endures to this day. If you have not already done so, check out Dr. Deranian’s book!
It was on the second night of a double watch stint on May 15, 1918, that then Private Henry Johnson, with another soldier of the legendary 369th Infantry Regiment (better known as the “Harlem Hellfighters”), suddenly discovered that upwards of two dozen Germans were patrolling right beside their exact position. About to be captured, Private Johnson opened fire, killing at least one and wounding two others before engaging another in hand-to-hand combat with his bolo knife. Thrice wounded, Johnson kept fighting until his friend was rescued and what was left of the German patrol fled. Returning home, he and his family enjoyed the full star treatment for his heroic actions. He even took up the lecture circuit to talk about racial colorblindness but disappointed some when he also spoke of the bigotry that took place in the trenches.
As time went on, many simply forgot the great men of the 369th who put on the uniform and fought for America so fiercely. It would not be until 2003 that Sargeant Henry “Black Death” Johnson, as he was affectionately dubbed by his friends and fellow servicemen for his actions on that fateful night, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In his time, however, he was not completely forsaken. Coolidge certainly never forgot the men of the illustrious 369th. Sargeant Johnson was both remembered and recognized in two distinct ways. It would be none other than President Calvin Coolidge who made a point of setting aside a day to meet this young, commendable American. As Coolidge’s schedule was especially full in the weeks after President Harding’s death, it is very telling that the most powerful man in the world took the time to start the business of September 20th 1923 in the company of this brave and honorable man. When Henry died in July 1929, it is worth mentioning that long before he was officially rewarded for his exceptional service, he was buried among many who had served with him, at Arlington National Cemetery, an honor not bestowed flippantly but one befitting the caliber of his courage and the dignity of his deeds. It matters not what race or background he was. He was, as Coolidge saw him, an extraordinary American. He therefore sleeps among those who are in every essential his people, Americans of all services, colors and creeds.