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Lauding Cal


While we’re at it, another couple of notes on Coolidge:

1. Reagan liked him so much that he had Coolidge’s portrait put up in the Cabinet Room. (Reagan could actually remember the Coolidge years.)

2. One afternoon, my fellow speechwriter Josh Gilder and I spent some a couple of hours rooting around in old presidential speeches, looking for ideas for (as best I recall) a State of the Union Address. When we got to Coolidge, we stopped cold. His speeches were–are–superbly wrought. He had an ear for the American idiom and a marvelous economy of style. If Robert Frost had written presidential speeches instead of poetry, they’d have sounded a lot like Cal’s.

3. Coolidge’s home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, represents one of the finest historical sites in the country. What’s striking is the modesty of the place–when you visit the tiny parlor in which Vice President Coolidge was sworn in as chief executive after the 1923 death of President Harding, you are in a place the reflects all the virtues of people who led hard and simple lives. Coolidge’s father refused to change the home, disdaining electricity or indoor plumbing. When he died, he left the place to his housekeeper, who in turn refused to make changes. On her death in the nineteen-sixties, the home became the property of the state of Vermont, which had the sense to keep it just as it was. The site: Here’s Coolidge during a 1927 tour of Vermont, speaking to a crowd, as best the historians can tell, extemporaneously:

Vermont is a state I love.

I could not look upon the peaks of

Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox

without being moved in a way

that no other scene could move me.

It was here that I first saw the light of day;

here that I received my bride;

here my dead lie, pillowed on the

loving breast of our everlasting hills.