On Strengthening America’s Civic Participation

The Coolidges arrive in Hammond, Indiana, on Flag Day, June 14, 1927.

The Coolidges arrive in Hammond, Indiana, on Flag Day, June 14, 1927.

Arriving in Hammond, the Coolidges pause respectfully at Wicker Park

Arriving in Hammond, the Coolidges pause respectfully for the National Anthem at Wicker Park

The Coolidges at the rear of their train

The Coolidges at the rear of their train

When the enormous delegation from Hammond, Indiana, stepped off the train and went to make their request at the White House on March 11, 1927, little would anyone realize the significance their visit would have on the future or the power of the statement it represented. They had not come to request money, propose an appropriation or even lobby for Federal patronage. They had come with something far more altruistic and responsible in mind. Instead of what they could get from Washington, they were inspired by what they could give, how they could promote, not themselves, but the efficacy of solvent local governments, civic-minded neighborhoods and proactive citizenship. Ever determined to pay their own way, they arrived not with the expectation of political or monetary reimbursement but to approach the President as their equal in citizenship. Quietly honoring the sovereign balance between states, the people and their national government, the Hammond delegation invited President Coolidge, as their guest, to dedicate a 225-acre park they had already acquired, paid for and provisioned so that posterity, memorializing the veterans of World War I, would be able to enjoy both the beauty of the outdoors and the rejuvenation afforded by its opportunities for wholesome recreation.

Of course, the President’s travel would cost just as would the attendant expenses of his stay. However, they knew in Mr. Coolidge there was someone who could masterfully save public money, finding ways not only in avoiding debts but amassing surpluses on even the cheapest of trips. A negotiation ensued. Perhaps he could give the speech that morning and “save…the trouble of going out there,” Coolidge offered. Well, that would curtail their time to speak now on the merits of their park, their neighborhoods and their people. They were here to underscore the strength of local civic participation after all. Ever respectful of that sovereign principle, Cal deferred and as the plan for his visit to their town took shape in the coming months, he would endorse their example in word as well as deed.

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By stopping in Hammond only two hours en route to his famous stay in the Black Hills that summer, leaving immediately after the simple ceremony, Coolidge avoided the costs of accommodations, food, and the endless parade of elaborate outlay expected to accompany a Presidential visit. He detested ostentatious displays, especially at the hands of government officeholders, in part because of his own self-effacing nature but also because it always exacted a tax for which people had to work longer hours for fewer wages, seeing less a reward for themselves and more for those who have not earned it. Even on the road, Coolidge would practice economy. He would stay in unassuming places, attend rural church services rather than the grand churches of the nearest city and exercise the powers of his office to serve, not be served.

The story is told of the strenuous efforts to provide a pristine washroom for the President during one of his stops on the road. Newly supplied with soap and clean, white towels, every corner of the room was ready for his arrival. Moments before being shown these facilities, however, a hot and dusty aide hurried to the room, drying his hands on one of those towels. Claude Fuess recounts what happened next, “When the President was escorted to the washroom, his companion noticed that one of the towels was streaked with dirt, and proffered him the remaining one, but Coolidge waved him aside, saying, ‘Why soil it? There’s one that’s been used. That’s clean enough.’ ” As Fuess aptly summarizes, the account would “hardly be worth relating” if not for the light that it sheds on Coolidge’s consistent sense of humility and economy (Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont, pp.487-8).

The President faces his audience - 150,000 strong - at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, Hammond, Indiana

The President faces his audience – 150,000 strong – at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, Hammond, Indiana

Looking out across the crowds past the baseball field, walking trails, tennis courts and 18-hole golf course, Coolidge saw something more as he began,

“Fellow Citizens:

“This section represents a phase of life which is typically American. A few short years ago it was an uninhabited area of sand and plain. To-day it is a great industrial metropolis. The people of this region have been creating one of the most fascinating epics. The fame of it, reaching to almost every quarter of the globe, has drawn hither the energetic pioneer spirits of many different races all eager to contribute their share and to receive in return the abundant rewards which advancing enterprise can give…Here are communities inspired with a strong civic spirit moving majestically forward, serving themselves and their fellow men. Here is life and light and liberty. Here is a common purpose – working, organizing, thinking, building for eternity.” This vibrant collaboration was not instituted by government mandate, it flowered under the care of the people themselves. Moreover, it was a structure built by all races, a legacy on which everyone had left an impression and contributed a part. Such is the nature of liberty. Coolidge could easily have said the converse is equally as possible: Without a constantly replenished civic spirit, a community soon experiences death, darkness and slavery.

As Coolidge kept his commitment to speak at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, the visit of that large delegation stuck with him. He likely saw many of those familiar faces among the 150,000 who were there that day. He was not there to honor himself, he was there to commemorate the sacrifice of those who, not unlike the engaged citizens of Hammond, had done more than simply talk about what needs to be done, they got busy and did what needed doing. The veterans of the World War took up the full burden of American citizenship. It is only fitting that they were in turn honored by those ready to partake in that higher kind of devotion. “Not the visionary variety,” Coolidge observes, “which talks of love of country but makes no sacrifices for it, but the higher, sterner kind, which does and dares, defending assaults upon its firesides and intrusion upon its liberty with a musket in its hands.” The men and women of Hammond were not lawless anarchists or violent deviants, but “orderly, peaceable people, neither arrogant nor quarrelsome, seeking only those advantages which come from the well-earned rewards of enterprise and industry.” As a result, the people of Hammond, like Americans all across the country, were simply demonstrating what it means to responsibly exercise American citizenship.

7-6-2-1-editAs he stepped to the podium, Coolidge’s mind would turn again to the astounding achievements of this region of Indiana, he would reflect on the rapid but substantial rise from wilderness to thriving neighborhoods, towns and metropolises. These were not developments over which to mourn, they exemplified the strength and progress of men and women engaged in their own communities, free to direct their own destinies and make their own decisions. They embodied self-government at its finest. With local obligations being met so proficiently, it made the intervention of national authority unnecessary, redundant and destructive. The better local institutions work, as the citizens of Hammond proved, the less room there remains for central government to justify its presence. This exemplary success of civic participation was not from some coincidental combination of factors in history, as if it were all by accident, it was directly a result of the daring spirit of Americans themselves. It came from the character they possessed. As the President would remark on that occasion, “It is inconceivable that it could take place in any land but America.” The very ground on which they stood was testament to that truth. It had once been a dry, sandy plain. Now it was a garden appealing not only to the mind but to the spirit of man. It was conceived and carried out not by the votes of politicians but through the effort and perseverance of citizens who recognized they had an obligation to give, not merely to take. Men like George Hammond, whose packing plant helped establish the town; or the 16 men of North Township who joined together to bequeath this large property to posterity for its practical usage in bettering people.

n083468 looking down in convertible

n083471 backseat of convertible

“Such a people always respond when there is need for military service.” The service Hammond was rendering was hardly the first time that area had known sacrifice. Every war down to the latest World War had seen Hammond give of its own to something greater than accolades or recognition. It had helped decide the “chief issue” of the Great War: “whether an autocratic form or a republican form of government was to be predominant among the great nations of the earth. It was fought to a considerable extent to decide whether the people were to rule, or whether they were to be ruled; whether self-government or autocracy should prevail. Victory finally rested on the side of the people…This park is a real memorial to World War service because it distinctly recognizes the sovereignty and materially enlarges the dominion of the people. It is a true emblem of our Republic.”

The President elaborated on this concept by looking back through history. Ancient gardens and Old World parks “had little to do with the public. Parks were private affairs for the benefit of royalty and the nobility.” Recent past had seen an outpouring of interest and investment “in our country…for these important functions.” But here, in stark difference from antiquity, these places of recreation are as important as where people work and live. They are just as essential as homes and workplaces in rearing a people “who are fit to rule.” It was uniquely and “triumphantly American” that places like Wicker Park take on such importance in the community. Since, Coolidge explains, “[i]in this country the sciences, the arts, the humanities, are not reserved for a supposed aristocracy, but for the whole of the people. Here we do not extend privilege to a few, we extend privilege to everybody. That which was only provided for kings and nobles in former days, bestow freely on the people at large. The destiny of America is to give the people still more royal powers, to strengthen their hand for a more effective grasp upon the scepter.”

The children of the Carmelite Orphanage enthusiastically receive the Coolidges

The children of the Carmelite Orphanage enthusiastically receive the Coolidges.

Even with all the progress America has brought, “we are still a great distance from what we would like to be.” Education, religious devotion and economic opportunities need further improvement. Recognizing that we are far from perfection, these all deserve the best we can render to close that distance and “work toward…elimination” of our shortcomings in regard to God and man. “But we should not be discouraged because we are surrounded by human limitations and handicapped by human weakness. We are also possessors of human strength, intelligence, courage, fidelity, character – these, also, are our heritage and our mark of the Divine image.” We neglect that truth to our peril. “The conclusion that our institutions are sound, that our social system is correct, has been demonstrated beyond question by our experience. It is necessary that this should be known and properly appreciated.” The President then predicted what would happen should this fail to be done. “Unless it continues to be the public conviction, we are likely to fall a more easy prey to the advocates of false economic, political, and social doctrines. It is always very easy to promise everything. It is sometimes difficult to deliver anything. In our political and economic life there will always be those who are lavish with unwanted criticism and well supplied with false hopes. It is always well to remember that American institutions have stood the test of experience. They do not profess to promise everything, but to communities and to individuals who have been content to live by them they have never failed in their satisfactions and rewards. Here industry can find employment, thrift can amass a competency, and square dealing is assured of justice.”

Loretta Jablowski, age 6, welcomes the President and First Lady to Hammond

Loretta Jablowski, age 6, welcomes the President and First Lady to Hammond

As Coolidge neared the end of his dedicatory message, he returned to the importance of what was not merely being said over the microphone, but what was being lived in the deeds of communities like Hammond and the people of North Township but in places all across America. It had to continue. Civic participation — the substance of an active, engaged citizenship — had to be nurtured and continually developed or else stagnation and decay would result. Crucial to the strength of that civic spirit are the unseen realities: the ideals of this country. “Amid all her prosperity, America has not forgotten her ideals,” the President testified. He saw their vigor and life at every stop along the tracks to South Dakota that summer. He saw them in the accomplishments of young men like Charles Lindbergh. He also saw them in the simple acts of kindness shown by the children the Coolidges met on that trip. Calvin would joyfully take up one of them, a little girl of six years, in his arms in appreciation for the bouquet she had for Mrs. Coolidge. It was Cal, welcoming all the children who had come with flags, flowers and tokens of their patriotism, dismissed the Secret Service’s well-intentioned efforts to prevent them. The love those children had for America was not something to shame and disparage but to keep kindled and encouraged. It was, after all, the seed of a greater and greater civic involvement that would preserve communities’ soundness and self-sufficiency by keeping governance nearest to those it concerned. “It is but a passing glance that we bestow upon wealth and place,” Cal would say as he closed his message at Wicker Park, “compared with that which we pour out upon courage, patriotism, holiness, and character. We dedicate no monuments to merely financial and economic success, while our country is filled with memorials to those who have done some service for their fellow men. This park stands as a fitting example of these principles. It is a memorial to those who defended their country in its time of peril. Through the benefits that it will bestow upon this community, it is an example of practical idealism.”

As Coolidge surveyed the hundreds of thousands of Americans who filled the park that day, he saw in our future not a sapping despair or delusion of cynicism but one bright with better things in store, a future resplendent with the potential of a free and actively engaged citizenry. That future, however, was conditional. If our country was to lead the way toward realizing “a world fit for the abode of heroes,” as Coolidge sincerely wanted, “it can only be through the industry, the devotion, and the character of the people themselves. The Government can help to provide opportunity, but the people must take advantage of it. As the inhabitants of the North Township repair to this park in the years to come, as they are reinvigorated in body and mind by its use, as they are moved by the memory of the heroic deeds of those to whom it is dedicated, may they become the partakers and promoters of a more noble, more exalted, more inspired American life.” He knew Americans, taking responsibility themselves rather than waiting for government to act, were more than up to this challenge. It remains for us to prove we are now.

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Coolidge Crossword #1

Coolidge Crossword #1

Here is the first of our Coolidge Crosswords with quoted highlights from four of our most recent articles, “On Lessons from Phillips Andover,” “On the Future Soundness of Medicine,” “On Garman” and “On the Ideals of Art.” Enjoy the challenge!

Across
2. “It is especially the ___________ side of art that requires more emphasis.”
4. “As human beings gain ____________ perfection, so the world will gain in social perfection, and we may hope to come into an era of right living and right thinking, of good will, and of peace, in accordance with the teachings of the Great Physician.”
6. “What an incalculable loss to the world may have been the premature blotting out of a single brilliant creative _______ which might have been saved through modern healing or preventive measures.”
8. “Knowledge without _________ is dangerous.”
10. “In a wider sense, the arts include all those manifestations of _______ created by man which broaden and enrich life.”
11. “______ is the expression of intelligent action for a specified end.”

Down
1. “The only hope of perfecting human relationship is in accordance with the law of __________ under which men are not so solicitous about what they shall get as they are about what they shall give.”
3. Speaking of Amherst’s teachers in the 1890s, Coolidge said, “The great distinguishing mark of all of them was that they were men of _____________.”
4. “It is not _________, but idleness, that is degrading.”
5. “When the world holds its examinations it will require the same standards of accuracy and ________ which the student bodies impose upon themselves.”
7. “We may be certain that our country is altogether _______ of us. It will be necessary to demonstrate that we are _______ of our country.”
9. “For our chartered institutions of learning to turn back to the material and neglect the _________ would be treason, not only to the cause for which they were founded but to man and to God.”

"94 million over weight" by "Ding" Darling, The Des Moines Register, September 14, 1928.

“94 million over weight” by “Ding” Darling, The Des Moines Register, September 14, 1928.

On the Future Soundness of Medicine

“America has so many elements of greatness that it is difficult to decide which is the most important. It is probable that a careful consideration would reveal that the progress of civilization is so much a matter of interdependence that we could not dispense with any of them without great sacrifice…[O]ne of the most important factors of our everyday existence is the public health, which has come to be dependent upon sanitation and the medical profession…This great work is carried on partly through private initiative, partly through Government effort, partly by a combination of these two working in harmony with the science of chemistry, of engineering, and of applied medicine. In its main aspects it is preventive, but in a very large field it is remedial. Without this service our large centers of population would be overwhelmed and dissipated almost in a day and the modern organization of society would be altogether destroyed. The debt which we owe to the science of medicine is simply beyond computation or comprehension…

Poster in front of a Chicago theater in 1918

Poster in front of a Chicago theater in 1918. Most Americans remembered that dreadful outbreak as the American Medical Association met in May 1927 for its 78th Annual Session in Washington. They knew it was the courageous doctors and nurses throughout the country who treated the sick, helped whom they could and prevented many more deaths at great personal risk.

“…Although great progress has been made and certain fundamental rules have become well established, we can not yet estimate the development of scientific research as much more than begun. But great effort is being put out all around us and a constant advancement of knowledge is in progress. This has been especially true in the science of medicine. Many of the diseases which laid a heavy toll on life have been entirely eradicated and many others have been greatly circumscribed. The average length of life has been much increased…

“…If there is any one thing which the progress of science has taught us, it is the necessity of an open mind. Without this attitude very little advancement could be made. Truth must always be able to demonstrate itself. But when it has been demonstrated, in whatsoever direction it may lead, it ought to be followed. The remarkable ability of America to adopt this policy has been one of the leading factors in its rise to power. When a principle has been demonstrated, the American people have not hesitated to adopt it and put it into practice. Being free from the unwarranted impediments of custom and caste, we have been able to accept whole-heartedly the results of research and investigation and the benefits of discovery and invention.

“This policy has been the practical working out of the applied theory of efficiency in life. We have opened our mines and assembled coal and iron with which we have wrought wonderful machinery, we have harnessed our water power, we have directed invention to agriculture, the result of which has been to put more power at the disposal of the individual, eliminating waste and increasing production. It has all been a coordination of effort, which has raised the whole standard of life.

John A. Andrew Hospital, the well-known Tuskegee Veterans medical facility, directed by Dr. John A. Kenney, Jr. It would be none other than President Coolidge who defended the black leadership of that institution and helped ensure proper care was given to all those who came to it. Coolidge did not abide racial preferences on any front, but was especially involved in the controversy at Tuskegee over race and the progress of medicine there.

John A. Andrew Hospital, the well-known Tuskegee Veterans medical facility, directed by Dr. John A. Kenney, Jr. a leading specialist in dermatology research. It would be none other than President Coolidge who defended the black leadership of that institution and helped ensure proper care was given to all those who came to it. Coolidge did not abide racial preferences on any front, but was especially involved in the controversy at Tuskegee over race and the progress of medicine there.

“In the development of this general policy the science of medicine has had its part to play…We are practicing economy in our governmental affairs. But the conservation of human health and life is one of the greatest achievements in the advance of civilization, both socially and economically.

“What an incalculable loss to the world may have been the premature blotting out of a single brilliant creative mind which might have been saved through modern healing or preventive measures.” A policy which subordinates the precious potential of an individual’s life to inefficient and wasteful procedures is a repudiation of civilization. Coolidge makes clear who is responsible for such continual advancements in medicine, looking back to a time before “medical men,” without the involvement of bureaucrats, removed diseases “of their terrors,” when once “a single case of yellow fever or cholera reported in New York Harbor caused such panic as seriously to interfere with business. Now such sporadic cases would scarcely cause public comment…There is no finer page in the history of civilization than that which records the advance of medical science. The heroism of those who have worked with deadly germs and permitted themselves to be inoculated with disease, to the end that countless thousands might be saved, was less spectacular but no less far-reaching than that on the battle field or of an isolated rescue from a burning building or a sinking ship.”

Influenza took the lives of 6 million people in 1918. Those who survived remembered how devastating the loss was, especially just as the War came to a halt.

Influenza took the lives of 6 million people in 1918. Those who survived remembered how devastating the loss was, especially just as the War came to a halt. It was also remembered that government-operated military bases were the first and most severe hit. Coolidge, like most in the audience in May of 1927, knew that government’s tendency to place political considerations in the administration of healthcare was not a viable model or safe solution for the future.

It was hardly coincidental that not only had average lifespans tripled since the early 19th century but “most of that gain has been made in the past half century” through the increase of knowledge and personal initiative by practitioners and patients. Of course, government at all levels had become aware of the “public functions” entailed in preserving health and conserving life, as “[n]o more striking achievement was ever accomplished than by Doctor Gorgas, of the United States Army, in cleaning up the Panama Canal Zone. Under French control, the death rate in that area was 240 per thousand. In 1913 it had dropped to 8.35 per thousand. Without this work the construction and operation of the canal would have been impossible.” Yet, government does not maintain health, it can only help the institutions which do, the individual and the doctor.

For medical advances to continue in the universities  and growing number of hospitals around the country, physicians and nurses would have to be allowed to continue their work freed of regulatory and administrative constraints to apply new findings and best procedures for the good of the patient. Free markets had and would continue to furnish results. The affordability of health insurance would continue to spread, so that Coolidge could proudly observe that “[n]ot a few individuals” could retain the physicians they chose to provide personal care all year around. The steadfast and formal opposition to mandatory health insurance by the very group of medical professionals President Coolidge addressed was not a roadblock to progress, it was a means to conserve and expand sustainable and proficient care for as many people as wished to make use of it. A sound future remained in this direction. “The modern broad-minded physician…willing to use or to recommend whatever methods seem best suited to the case in hand” had to be encouraged not shackled by the red-tape of administration. It is the physician — not government — who is “the strongest advocate of prevention.” Bureaucrats, known for prioritizing political considerations above real-time initiative and medical innovation, simply do not possess the competence or skill necessary to supplant those closest to the situation, even in the best of times.

Dr. Jabez N. Jackson led the American Medical Association  and its Annual proceedings as Coolidge came to visit, May 1927.

Dr. Jabez N. Jackson led the American Medical Association and its Annual proceedings as Coolidge came to visit, May 1927.

Mordecai Johnson, the new President of Howard University in 1926, would cultivate and develop a medical school that would lead research and medical knowledge in the years to come. Bringing on Amherst graduate (class of 1926) Dr. Charles R. Drew would prove an immeasurable contribution to medical care, especially in the field of blood transfusion. Coolidge was a faithful advocate for the University and helped build up its medical program.

Mordecai Johnson, the new President of Howard University in 1926, would cultivate and develop a medical school that would lead research and medical knowledge in the years to come. Bringing on Amherst graduate (class of 1926) Dr. Charles R. Drew would prove an immeasurable contribution to medical advancement, especially in the field of blood transfusion. Coolidge was a faithful advocate for the University and helped build up its medical program.

Dr. Charles R. Drew

Dr. Charles R. Drew

 

The roar of economic growth during the 1920s contributed tremendously to the breadth and inclusiveness of opportunities, not merely economic and professional but in the health of Americans. Coolidge could report with the full awareness of so illustrious an assembly of medical people as present that night that “the great body of our population is able to secure adequate medical attention.” How was this possible? This was long before the New Deal, the Great Society or “Obamacare.” He was not exaggerating, however, as the more than 6,200 attendees knew. The audience filling a packed auditorium that day comprised members of the American Medical Association, an organization representing 94,000 of the 140,000 physicians in the country at that time. They knew he was right. “This is true,” Coolidge declared, “to a remarkable degree of all our great centers of population,” with only the remotest quarters unable to provide such service, a fact which was itself changing with better roads and Ford’s automobile. The larger cities could furnish “free dispensaries” and “free service” thanks to the unsparing dedication of “time and…skill” physicians were already giving “for the alleviation of human suffering.” America’s “private benefactors,” “organized charities” and “governmental agencies” may contribute support and encouragement “to this most important purpose” but it is to those directly concerned, the skilled medical men and women of this country and their patients, who make it possible.

“This is an enormous contribution…to human welfare. It is one of the undeniable evidences of the soundness and success of American institutions. The fact that our attainments and our blessings have become common is no reason why they should be ignored.” As the Annual Session of 1927 would come to a close three days later, President Coolidge would launch a Committee on the Costs of Medical Care to study the intricate problems and propose solutions for making care even more attainable, lowering its costs while increasing its access. The forty-eight medical professionals, administrators and economists appointed to the Committee would meet regularly for five years, submitting numerous reports and concluding their research with a final study on the issue in 1932. Among the recommendations fought for and approved by the AMA since 1920 remained a commitment to voluntary health insurance and an individual’s choice of care.

In fact, the only way Roosevelt’s Social Security Act passed in 1935 was contingent on the stipulation insisted by the Association that health insurance remain a matter left up to individuals. The Association would continue championing freedom of choice against Truman’s plan to socialize medicine in 1948 and the practice of fee splitting in 1952, an activity that would only escalate costs and create more middlemen that further separates a patient from obtaining only the care for which one chooses to pay.

Yet, with much of this still future, President Coolidge stood before the thousands gathered in Washington that evening of May 17, 1927, to close with some timeless observations on where the future of medicine turned if it were to remain sound and solvent. We could sit back and criticize the deficiencies of our free market system and the shortcomings of medical care or we could remember how far we have come because of that freedom to innovate, improve and serve. “Mere fault finding has no value except to reveal the poverty of the intellect which constantly engages in it,” Coolidge proclaimed. “Our country, our Government, our state of society, are a long way from being perfect, but the fact that our structure is not complete is no reason for refusing to assess at their proper value the usefulness and beauty of those parts which are nearing completion, or withholding our approval from the general plan of construction and neglecting to join in the common effort to carry on the work.”

Medical professionals gathered in Washington for the 1927 AMA Session gather here to honor the 500 doctors who died while at their work during World War I, May 17, 1927.

Medical professionals gathered in Washington for the 1927 AMA Session gather here to honor the 500 doctors who died while at their work during World War I, Arlington Amphitheater, May 17, 1927.

Humanity can no longer live under the excuse of insufficient experience. “It has located a great many fixed stars in the firmament of truth. No doubt a multitude of others await the revelation of a more extended research. But because we realize that we have not yet located them all is no reason for doubting the existence of those already observed or disregarding the records which reveal their position. To engage in such a course would lead to nothing but disaster.” By rejecting the markers of history, presuming to “reinvent the wheel” of human nature along failed and close-minded lines of experience, our current crop of leaders in Washington is beckoning that very disaster Coolidge foresaw.

The problem is not one of knowledge, Coolidge reminds us, but an unwillingness “to live in accordance with the knowledge which we have.” Coolidge elaborated, “Approbation of the Ten Commandments is almost universal. The principles they declare are sanctioned by the common consent of mankind. We do not lack in knowledge of them. We lack in ability to live by them.” Medical knowledge will continue to increase but it cannot advance us beyond moral knowledge with its obligations. The “structural weakness” we see is not in the foundations of American liberties, it resides “[s]omewhere in human nature” itself. “We do not do as well as we know. We make many constitutions, we enact many laws, laying out a course of action and providing a method of relationship one with another which are theoretically above criticism, but they do not come into full observance and effect.” Crime and war continue with us, even with what is, as Coolidge affirmed on another occasion, “the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race” by living under the American Constitution. The standard of freedom is not flawed, we are, as human beings.

Gathered to honor the memory of the American who discovered the aesthetic properties in surgery of sulphuric ether, Dr. Thomas A. Grooner, Dr. Charles H. Mayo and the daughter of Dr. Long, visit the statue of Crawford from Georgia, May 16, 1927.

Gathered to honor the memory of the American who discovered in 1842 the aesthetic properties in surgery of sulphuric ether, Dr. Thomas A. Grooner, Dr. Charles H. Mayo and the daughter of Dr. Long, visit the statue of Dr. Crawford Long, native of Georgia, May 16, 1927.

The future soundness of medicine rests not in greater restrictions on individual responsibility over health, the rationing of care along political factors, the replacement of medical competence with bureaucratic oversight or the increasing reach and revenue of third parties in the process but remains among those “fixed stars” discovered by America’s balance of liberty with self-government and personal prevention. The solutions are found in maximizing a patient’s range of choices, supporting not tying the able hands or closing the open-minds of those who directly provide care, while reaffirming the sanctity of an individual’s life.

President Coolidge with his predecessor's physician, General Sawyer and Passed Assistant Surgeon Joel T. Boone, who became a Coolidge family close friend and primary doctor. Boone's medical judgment was exceptional and the loss of President Harding, rescue of Mrs. Harding's life and the death of Calvin Jr. weighed heavily on him, despite doing all that the best medical expertise could do in each case. Boone was a sound physician and a strong example of medical heroism.

President Coolidge with his predecessor’s physician, General Sawyer and Passed Assistant Surgeon Joel T. Boone, who became a Coolidge family close friend and their primary doctor during the 1920s. Boone’s medical judgment was exceptional and the loss of President Harding, the timely rescue of Mrs. Harding’s life and the death of Calvin Jr. weighed heavily on him, despite doing all that the best medical expertise could do in each case. Boone was a sound physician and a strong example of medical heroism.

The Hippocratic standard “Never do harm to anyone” means more than a thousand decrees from Washington because it finds validation in the fundamental precepts of the Ten Commandments. Many “of our social problems” have physical causes but that is not the final word on the matter. Our problems go deeper than the physical symptoms. “If we could effectively rid our systems of poison, not only would our bodily vigor be strengthened, but our vision would be clearer, our judgment more accurate, and our moral power increased. We should come to a more perfect appreciation of the truth.” Coolidge maintained, “It is to your profession in its broadest sense untrammeled by the contentions of different schools,” not to mention administrative boards and political planners, “that the world may look for large contributions toward its regeneration, physically, mentally, and spiritually, when not force but reason will hold universal sway.”

President Coolidge was not pronouncing some all-encompassing faith in either a “Church of Medicine” or a Great Collective State, but was appealing to something far more profound, more ancient and eternally important. The future soundness of medicine remained where it always has — with the free will, ability and moral power of the individual, who administers care to the whole person not through coercion but through what one gives willingly in service to others according to the patient’s ability to pay. The fullest provision of treating mind, body and soul will never be actualized via statute or administrative ordinance. Only we can make that happen. Strengthening the partnership between patients and their doctors realizes the freedom of contract inherent in our system. It smooths the path to medical — and spiritual — progress. Or, as Coolidge put it, “As human beings gain in individual perfection, so the world will gain in social perfection, and we may hope to come into an era of right living and right thinking, of good will, and of peace, in accordance with the teachings of the Great Physician.”

Overruling his own doctor, President Coolidge ventures out in the rain to greet the thousands of doctors gathered at the White House the day after his speech to these professionals in Washington for the American Medical Association's Annual Session, May 18, 1927.

Overruling his own doctor, President Coolidge ventures out in the rain to greet the thousands of doctors gathered at the White House the day after his speech to these professionals in Washington for the American Medical Association’s Annual Session, May 18, 1927.