The Wisdom of Silent Cal  

Photo of Calvin Coolidge aged 52
Calvin Coolidge in 1919


 Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was a man of few words. It was said that Coolidge could be silent in five different languages. There is an apocryphal story about a person sitting next to him at a dinner party who once said, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge replied, “You lose.” Here are some of my favorite Calvin Coolidge quotes:

  • “It takes a great man to be a good listener.”
  • “Don’t expect to build up the weak by tearing down the strong.”
  • “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
  • “I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm.”
  • “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”
  • “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.”
  • “Don’t you know that four-fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?”
  • “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it.”
  • “You don’t have to explain something you haven’t said.”

Finally, Coolidge was a man of faith. It would do well for us to think for a moment about these words:
 
“Our government rests upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberality, and for the rights of mankind. Unless the people believe in these principles they cannot believe in our government. There are only two main theories of government in our world. One rests on righteousness and the other on force. One appeals to reason, and the other appeals to the sword. One is exemplified in the republic; the other is represented by despotism.
 
The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of law for the virtue of man. Of course, we endeavor to restrain the vicious, and furnish a fair degree of security and protection by legislation and police control, but the real reform which society in these days is seeking will come as a result of our religious convictions, or they will not come at all. Peace, justice, humanity, charity—these cannot be legislated into being. They are the result of divine grace.”
 
“It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in a divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve; skeptics do not contribute; cynics do not create. Faith is the great motive power, and no man realizes his full possibilities unless he has the deep conviction that life is eternally important, and that his work, well done, is a part of an unending plan.”
 
I was going to say something else, but, perhaps considering the subject matter, I’ve said too much already.

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