He is the only one of our presidents to have been born on the Fourth of July (1872 to be exact). Calvin Coolidge, the 30th of our 43 presidents was deeply patriotic and revered the basic institutions of the nation, but he did not wear any of this on his sleeve. Of the Stars and Stripes, he once said, “He who lives under it and is loyal to it is loyal to truth and justice everywhere.” That summarized his thoughts completely.
He was dubbed “Silent Cal,” for he was anything but loquacious. When he did speak out or write, however, he was pithy or eloquent, as the situation demanded. He used language with precision and wasted no words. During the Boston police strike in 1919 he was Governor of Massachusetts and came right to the point: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”
Coolidges’s speeches and writings were often eloquent in their simplicity. About the celebration of the nation’s Independence Day, he wrote of its long-term significance in a July 3, 1930 newspaper column, “Since 1776 we have been politically an independent nation, but we do not need to emphasize our independence any more than we need to emphasize our selfishness. We are in no danger of failing to provide a very complete supply of both of them.”
Instead, he wrote, “Our greatness will (be) in a more adequate recognition of our dependence.… On the economic, social and moral side of life we are all dependent.… We grow in grace through intercourse with our fellow men. We build our character largely by meeting our obligations to others. We all live in the same world. We are bound to a common destiny through a common brotherhood. The path to glory does not lie in a sordid individualism, a perverted independence or a narrow nationalism. It lies toward the Golden Rule. The independence which the Fathers won by declaring their reliance on Providence and pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, not to themselves, but to each other, we cannot keep on any inferior commitment.”
Mr. Hannaford is the author of The Quotable Calvin Coolidge (Images From the Past, Inc.).