Friday, September 19, 2008

Calvin Coolidge Biography

I just finished David Greenberg’s biography of Calvin Coolidge. This is from the American Presidents’ Series, which I have found very well done.

I recently read a biography of Grace Coolidge so decided to read this one next. This book really gave me a new understanding of Coolidge and his presidency. I was also fascinated by the many parallels I saw between the 1920s and the 1990s and early 2000s. Coolidge is often overlooked and seen more as a placeholder president, but this biography really showcases what Coolidge did well as well as what he didn’t. It in no way blamed Coolidge for the Depression, but definitely showed that all the blame can’t be placed solely on the Hoover administration. In addition, this book offers interesting insights in the career of Herbert Hoover in Coolidge’s administration.

One trait I really admired in Coolidge was his fiscal policies. Coolidge really was into a “penny saved, a penny earned.” I could connect with someone who would pare down White House dinner menus to save on the bottom line!

Greenberg points out that Coolidge’s main problem is that he saw a very narrow view of the office and left many things untouched and what he did do, he usually delegated. Where Coolidge excelled though was in public relations. Coolidge really knew how to use the media, including the new venue of radio to bring the President the people. I was incredibly impressed with this aspect and it showed a completely new side of Coolidge to me. Through this innovation Coolidge really was the first president that Middle America could feel they knew. In addition, Coolidge and his advisors really played up his modest roots and played to the media. Coolidge was always willing to post for photographers. This really showcased that while Coolidge was seen as a relic of the prior century, he was very much aware of the new one.

This biography is definitely worth the time to read and you will hopefully emerge with a much fuller picture of “Silent Cal” and might even get a few insights into the modern world.

And just because I couldn't resist - the youngest reader of this biography! Adam stole it a few times!

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