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THE QUOTABLE CALVIN COOLIDGE: Sensible Words for a New Century
By Peter Hannaford

New book Theorizes that Vermont president was actually 'Quotable Cal' Coolidge
Review by Christopher Graff, Associated Press,
first appeared 12/22/00

 Everyone knows Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. That's why they called him "Silent Cal."

 But not many are aware how well chosen those words were.

 Peter Hannaford is out to change that. The author of books on George Washington and Ronald Reagan has tackled the Coolidge myth with publication of "The Quotable Calvin Coolidge."

 It is the latest in a series of books designed to debunk the myth that the nation's 30th president, from Plymouth, said little and did nothing.

 It was a stereotype deeply engrained.

 "It is as true in politics as in war that the victors get to write the history," Hannaford writes in an excellent synopsis of Coolidge's life that runs in the front of the book.

 "Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal supporters had a political interest in consigning what they called the 'Harding-Coolidge-Hoover Era' to political purgatory," he writes. "They naturally wanted to keep their hold on political power, so they lumped FDR's three predecessors together and discredited them all for the ills of the Depression in order to achieve that aim."

 "Keeping Cool With Coolidge" began its resurrection in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, who hung Coolidge's portrait in the Cabinet Room.

 During the next 20 years a series of books and publications were published praising Coolidge, culminating in 1998 with a conference at the John F. Kennedy Library in which scholars and politicians called Coolidge a man of absolute integrity who gave the nation huge tax cuts and presided over a period of unbridled prosperity.

 "Calvin Coolidge is the most overlooked and least understood of the American presidents," Sheldon Stern, the historian at the Kennedy Library, said at the conference.

 "He is a very different figure than what we were brought up to believe," said former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who spoke about Coolidge's years as governor of Massachusetts.

 Hannaford provides a good and concise biography of Coolidge and then lets Silent Cal speak for himself in a series of quotations arranged by subject matter.

 Some are well-known, such as Coolidge's response when asked by his wife what the minister had said in a sermon about sin: "He said he was against it."

 Or perhaps Coolidge's most famous quotation: When a woman said to the president that she made a bet with a friend that she could get more than two words out of him, Coolidge responded: "You lose."

 But many of the quotes contained in Hannaford's book are not well known and demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and interest of the last president who wrote all his own speeches.

 On African Americans: "Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and private duty to protect those rights. Congress ought to exercise all its powers of prevention and punishment against the hideous crime of lynching."

 On honesty: "My conception of public duty is to face each problem as though my entire record in life were to be judged by the way I handled it, to keep always in touch with the folks back home, to be firm for my honesty of opinion, but to recognize every man's right to an honest difference of opinion."

Ordering Information: 5" x 7"
ISBN 1-884592-33-3, Hardcover: $19.50.

The Quotable Calvin  (HC) $19.50

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