“Silent Cal” Coolidge

Although Coolidge was known to be a skilled and effective public speaker, in private he was a man of few words and was therefore commonly referred to as “Silent Cal.” A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “Mr. Coolidge, I’ve made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” His famous reply: “You lose.” It was also Parker who, upon learning that Coolidge had died, reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?” — Wikipedia

A friend of mine, noted for his monosyllabic email replies, finally prompted me to look up Calvin Coolidge in Wikipedia. The famous anecdote above is also substantially repeated on the White House “Our Presidents” web page.

Coolidge was an outspoken advocate of Civil Rights (to the extent Coolidge, who could be an effective orator in public, could ever be said to be “outspoken.”) As Vice-President, Coolidge stepped in to complete the presidential term of Warren Harding, who had died in office, and Coolidge was elected President in his own right in 1924. He declined to run for a full second term of office in 1928, one year before the market crash of 1929. Of Coolidge’s successor Herbert Hoover, Wikipedia reports:

“Coolidge had been reluctant to choose Hoover as his successor; on one occasion he remarked that ‘for six years that man has given me unsolicited advice—all of it bad’.”

Coolidge was also responsible for the quote “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” His hands-off attitude toward the “Roaring Twenties” US economy was very popular with the business community. Decades later, the Reagan Administration picked up Coolidge as kind of a poster child for laissez-faire economics. Coming, as Coolidge’s administration had done, on the eve of America’s Great Depression, many critics believed Coolidge policies contributed to the decade-long collapse of the United States economic model before World War II. The controversy rages to this day as the United States tries to figure out who and what was really responsible for the Crash of 2008 – our worst economic meltdown since the 1930’s.

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