Byron's Babbles

The Great & Humble Leadership Of Calvin Coolidge

This past July my family and I spent the day in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont in Plymouth Notch. We went there to learn more about one of my favorite Presidents, Calvin Coolidge. I have read many books about our 30th President and studied many of the papers he wrote. I am fascinated with his leadership style, path to the Whitehouse, and his upbringing. In our quest to get my son to all 50 states before he graduates high school, we thought it fitting to spend time at the birthplace and childhood home of President Coolidge as our way of seeing Vermont.

Snow Roller

As soon as we walked up to the visitors center, we understood the draw of this place known as Plymouth Notch. It was beautiful! Then as we learned about President Coolidge’s grandparents and parents, it became very evident how he could grow up to be President of the United States. His father was born in Plymouth, Vermont. John C. Coolidge was truly a servant leader. As I see it, he was the guy who held the town together. He was a farmer, store owner, and worked at a variety of other occupations. He served as the postman, snow roller (there was no way to plow snow at that time so they rolled it – see picture), town police, cheese maker, and he even made carriages. In addition, he was a veteran of the Vermont militia, and was in charge of the area militia. As you can see, he was a prominent local leader, he served in numerous Plymouth town offices, and was elected and served in both the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont State Senate. What a role model for our 30th President.

This was quite the example for the young Calvin Coolidge growing up. President Coolidge learned hard work on the farm and developed a love of agriculture and farming that never went away. I wonder if there will ever be another President of the United States who grew up on a farm or who was a farmer like Calvin Coolidge or Harry Truman? It was amazing to stand in the sitting room, known as the “Oath of Office Room.” Coolidge was back home when President Harding died, so was sworn in by his father, there in that room, to be President of the United States. The room displays the table, Bible, and kerosene lamp used in the swearing in and then his inauguration. President and Mrs. Coolidge occupied a second floor bedroom during their many visits. Here we were, standing where all this happened.

“…to walk humbly and discharge my obligations.” ~ Governor Calvin Coolidge when asked his goal as Governor Of Massachusetts

Calvin lived in Plymouth Notch until 1887, when he left for school.  In 1895, he graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and moved to nearby Northampton to study law.  Northampton, Massachusetts would be home for him for the rest of his life. After admittance to the bar in 1897, he established his law practice and soon became involved in local politics. Here are some key milestones in Coolidge’s rise to the presidency:

• Began a steady rise in the State Republican Party in 1899

• City Councilman of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Served in both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislator

• Served as Massachusetts’ Lieutenant Governor and Governor

• Gained national attention during the Boston police strike of 1919

• Elected as Vice President to Warren G. Harding in 1920

• Became President in 1923 upon the death of Harding

• Elected President in 1924 after gaining the faith of the American people in only 15 months

President Coolidge was an outstanding example of a President who regarded his office, the most powerful in the world, as a stewardship–rather than as an opportunity to remake civilization. He proceeded from practical considerations of government, politics and popularity, applying his life-long experience as an elected office-holder. His decisions were usually compromises, made after long consideration of the conflicting interests involved. He announced them in as few words as possible and committed himself only so far ahead as might be necessary. During his administration the advance of the United States into the future was distinctly experimental–always in search of the sound course.

“They criticize me,” Coolidge said, “for harping on the obvious. Perhaps someday I’ll write On the Importance of the Obvious. If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” ~ President Calvin Coolidge

I am so glad we had the opportunity to walk among the houses of President Coolidge’s family and neighbors, the community church, taste cheese in the family’s cheese factory still in operation today, one-room schoolhouse, and general store which have all been carefully preserved. We also were able to pay our respects as the President is buried in the town cemetery. From walking where he walked we can understand why all during his life he would never waiver in his character or methods. He listened, he assimilated, and he waited until there appeared what seemed to be the soundest course. He did not try to make circumstances; but, when they appeared in the right configuration, he acted. By spending time there I learned where he had learned to be the principled and outstanding humble leader. I have been a student of Calvin Coolidge leadership for many years, and have now had the experience of seeing and understanding where his principled and conservative beliefs came from and were developed.

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