Eulogy for Former President Harding

Title: Eulogy for Former President Harding

Date: December 10, 1923

Location: Washington, DC

Context: Coolidge delivers a eulogy for Warren G. Harding over the radio, in which he recalls the former president’s noble character and propensity for world peace.

One of the brief poems that have touched the hearts of men is that wherein Leigh Hunt tells of the visit of an angel to earth, recording the names of “those who loved the Lord.” 

“And is my name there?” “Nay, not so,” replied the angel. “Then write me down,” he was told, “as one who loves his fellow-men.” The angel came again to show his list of those who love the Lord, “And lo!” the name of him who loved his fellow-men “led all the rest.”

It will be hard to find a better picture than this of President Harding, the man we loved and mourn. He loved his fellow-men, and because they felt it and know it, they loved and trusted him. His whole life, from the knee of that cherished mother who had an inspired faith in him, down to the day when a sorrowing world laid its tributes at his bier, was a continuing testimony to his devotion to them and to their faith in him.

Some will say that such a sweet and gentle nature could only have found its setting and its opportunity for service in a strange and peculiar time. Perhaps they are right. Yet he came to the world’s stage in an hour when it seemed set for other characters. The captains and the kings, the armies and the navies, the men who would have war, and the men who would not have peace, had long dominated the scene. Where among them could place be made, could ear be found, for this kindly, gentle, gracious soul? 

Yet he found his place. He caught the ear of a war-tired world. He called our country back to paths of peace, and gladly it came. He beckoned the nations to come and sit in council. He pointed them the way of peace. He set example of readiness to cast away the sword from the arm of might. He sought for men and nations a peace–the only true and lasting peace–based on justice and right. He stood first and firm for his own country, then for mankind. His sincerity and frankness won to his side those who sensed the great truth of human brotherhood. So he led the way to the monumental accomplishments of the Washington Conference on Limitation of Armament.

The same simplicity and directness marked his program in domestic affairs. His was the steady, strong, inspiring hand of guidance and helpfulness. It was never the mailed fist of compulsion. He knew that the greatest need of the world was peace with industry and production. He asked for these, and with them for thrift and the will to make good the losses that had been inflicted in the years of strife. He called his countrymen to set an example of those homely virtues, and they did. 

He gave without remorse of his own strength, down to the tragic end. He rose above misunderstandings and misrepresentations, but he was curiously incapable of hard feeling toward those who were unfair with him. In a time when the minds of many men were prone to seize upon hurried conclusions, he held back and dared to take his time and thought before deciding. He was free from the pride of opinion, but strong in the determination of conviction. He had that calm courage which could not be overpressed, but that was firm and final when decision had been reached. 

He was criticized because his own country, under his leadership, did not move forward so fast as some wished. But when, worn out by the struggle he had so bravely borne, he laid down the burden, his critics saw clearly what his leadership had accomplished. They saw that it had been a leadership forward and upward, in an era when most other countries were moving backward and downward. They saw that prosperity smiled once more on a favored land. They saw that prosperity and material well-being were somehow strangely rare in other lands. So they came to realize what his modest, unassuming leadership had wrought for his country. 

It was natural that such a character, passing from the stage of life, should leave the multitudes a sense of personal loss. Seldom indeed has any man’s death left that feeling among so many. He was mourned abroad and at home. The conviction was felt everywhere that he was one of the men best fitted to serve a distracted world in a difficult period of its history.

But he was not permitted to finish his task. He broke and went down under its load. In the hour of sorrow for his loss, men and women were moved to a broader charity, a relaxation of partisan excesses, a determination to be fair and moderate and reasonable. His life became, in the tragic sorrow of its end, a lesson in the value of simple and modest ways.

We mourn him today, and we shall mourn him so long as remembrance holds before us the picture of his patience, forbearance, faith and Christian tolerance. Those are rare virtues, too seldom found among the men who have the strength to rise to high places. They are the virtues that men need to seek and cultivate in these years of stress in the world. They point the way to salvation for men, for nations, for humanity itself.

We may well hope that his example to his own countrymen and to the world may help greatly to bring a spirit of charity, accord and true fraternity, whereby shall be lighted the lamp of understanding to show our feet into the paths of peace on earth, good will toward men. We may well consider by what means we can show our appreciation and by what method we can best enshrine his memory. 

Citation: The New York Times, December 10, 1923. 

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