When Life Strikes the President

April 19, 2017

“It costs a great deal to be president,” President Calvin Coolidge remarked when he reflected on the March 1926 death of his elderly father. In writing those words Coolidge spoke for all his predecessors, as well as presidents who came after him. Every president has dealt with tragedies and personal challenges during their tenure in the White House. Now an impressive assemblage of presidential historians have joined together to examine those challenges in the recently released book When Life Strikes the President: Scandal, Death, and Illness in the White House.

Coolidge Foundation chairman Amity Shlaes contributed a chapter on the death of Calvin Coolidge, Jr., and the impact that tragedy had on President Coolidge. Calvin, Jr. was a bright young man with a promising future ahead of him. Yet fate took him at the age of sixteen, after a toe blister went septic, subjecting Calvin, Jr. to blood poisoning, an ailment which today could be treated by antibiotics, but had no known treatment or cure in 1924.

Many historians argue that Calvin, Jr.’s death enervated the Coolidge presidency. Amity is not of their number. Instead, she views the death of Calvin, Jr. as a significant blow, of course, but a blow from which President Coolidge recovered. Not only did he recover, but he went on to achieve major accomplishments for the United States, including finally triumphing in his great tax crusade in 1926 and signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact to end war in 1928.

The book also explores the tragedies experienced by other presidents. It is amazing just how many profound tragedies there have been when one reflects upon the lives of the 44 commanders-in-chief. When Life Strikes the President provides a comprehensive and insightful overview of many of these seminal events, adding valuable new scholarship to the historiography of the American presidency.

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Coolidge Blog

When Life Strikes the President

“It costs a great deal to be president,” President Calvin Coolidge remarked when he reflected on the March 1926 death of his elderly father. In writing those words Coolidge spoke for all his predecessors, as well as presidents who came after him. Every president has dealt with tragedies and personal challenges during their tenure in the White House. Now an impressive assemblage of presidential historians have joined together to examine those challenges in the recently released book When Life Strikes the President: Scandal, Death, and Illness in the White House.

Coolidge Debate Goes to Dallas

The Coolidge Foundation’s second annual Dallas Debate Tournament was held on Saturday, 15 April at Southern Methodist University. Local debate students, and students from as far away as Houston, came together to debate the resolution “A significant tariff on imported goods from Mexico is a good policy for the U.S. economy.” More than 30 students spent the day debating this very timely issue.

Remembering the Great War

April 6th marks the Centenary of America’s entry into the Great War, as World War I was call back then.

Some of our anniversaries are more significant than others. This Great War anniversary is most definitely one that warrants public recognition and solemn commemoration. And it is especially meaningful for those of us born in the last century.

Why? The war was a mighty engine of destruction and change. The old order of things was consumed by it, with a new order taking its place. The war, no doubt, became the greatest historical force shaping the 20th Century. For example, in its wake, the United States would rise to the status of a major world power. In far off Russia, the Czarist regime would be replaced the Soviet Union, which would attempt through force and subterfuge to impose its communist ideology on the world. In the Middle East, the consequences of the break up of the Ottoman Empire into small, artificial states still haunt us to this day.

The Pilgrim’s Faith: Coolidge and Religion

If one crosses New England’s valleys and hills one will inevitably encounter ubiquitous clapboard Congregational meetinghouses. These places of worship crown the town greens of villages throughout the region. Their faith, the faith of the Puritan pilgrims, is a foundational element of the American ethos. Theirs is the faith of the first Thanksgiving, of Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” of the Salem witch trials, and of the heart and soul of the First Amendment: the freedom of religion (though most of the early Puritans came to the shores British North America seeking religious freedom for themselves, not for others). Puritan Congregationalism has shaped the contours of American civic and religious life for hundreds of years.