This series plays out the question “If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be?”
Peaceful. That’s the way I would describe my afternoon. It was so peaceful.
We didn’t say much, but what was said was important. We didn’t waste our words, every sentence was well thought out and meant to have impact. It was an outing of many valuable lessons. I wouldn’t say he was shy, but he was reserved and mindful of his speech. He is definitely amongst the most respectable men I’ve ever known.
We met at a park. He brought his Collies and I brought my Aussie. Immediately the dogs hit it off, and enjoyed their time off leash in the dog park. We smiled as we watched them play, not saying a word for the first ten minutes of being there together.
“I sure love dogs. They have a tendency of getting into your heart and making you a better person.” I said, to break the ice.
“Caring for animals builds character; you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their pets.” he said. “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.”
One of his Collies came over with a stick and dropped it at my feet. We began playing fetch, and the other dogs quickly joined in. It started to remind me of playing Jackpot with my friends and family; the three dogs fighting to catch one stick.
“Mr. Coolidge,” I said, looking up from the dogs for a moment. “I know your philosophy is to be slow to consider war and quick to help those who have served in times of war. Today, our responsibility to care for veterans is executed with embarrassing incompetence. There is so much bureaucracy and corruption that vets have a hard time getting care.”
He shook his head and said, “No more important duty falls on the Government of the United States than the adequate care of its veterans. Those suffering disabilities incurred in the service must have sufficient hospital relief and compensation. Their dependents must be supported. Rehabilitation and vocational training must be completed. All of this service must be clean, must be prompt and effective, and it must be administered in a spirit of the broadest and deepest human sympathy. If investigation reveals any present defects of administration or need of legislation, orders will be given for the immediate correction of administration, and recommendations for legislation should be given the highest preference.” 1
We took a recess in our short conversation to clean up after our dogs, and set up a picnic. We gave our dogs some water and continued our conversation.
“You were the President during the Roaring Twenties. You were able to help the nation enjoy one of the most prosperous decades in history. We’ve been experiencing a tough economy, unemployment fluctuates, but has remained higher than is acceptable; taxes take half of our paychecks and regulations kill small businesses.” I said, expressing my concerns to the great economist.
“The taxes of the Nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly. High taxes reach everywhere and burden everybody. They gear most heavily upon the poor. They diminish industry and commerce. They make agriculture unprofitable. They increase the rates on transportation. They are a charge on every necessary of life. Of all services which the Congress can render to the country, I have no hesitation in declaring to neglect it, to postpone it, to obstruct it by unsound proposals, is to become unworthy of public confidence and untrue to public trust.” 1 He replied.
“I love that. We are becoming an economically and morally bankrupt nation – at least at the federal level. Give me your thoughts on what we need in our leadership and as a people to put us back on the right path.”
“We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development, we do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge; we need more character. We do not need more government; we need more culture. We do not need more laws; we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.” 2
“Amen.” I proclaimed, as I enjoyed my Snack Pack.
“The encouraging feature of our country is not that it has reached our destination, but that it has overwhelmingly expressed its determination to proceed in the right direction,” 3 the President offered, sensing I was feeling a little discouraged. “Trust in the American people,” he continued, “We have been, and propose to be, more and more American. We believe that we can best serve our own country and most successfully discharge our obligations to humanity by continuing to be openly and candidly, intensely and scrupulously, American.” 3
“Thank you, sir.”
We cleaned up our picnic, and got our pooped out pooches ready to go home.
“Mr. Coolidge, can I ask you one more thing?” I requested.
“Why would someone as eloquent and smart as yourself be so quiet and reserved to be nicknamed Silent Cal?”
“I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.”
- First Annual Message December 6, 1923
- Commencement Address at Wheaton College, Norton, MA June 19, 1923
- Inaugural Address March 4, 1925