Significant Papers

In Commemoration of President Calvin Coolidge

Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Library of Congress
August 3, 2010

As a native Vermonter, it is a special pleasure to be with you on this anniversary, and on the launch of this compilation of essays about one of our most prominent native sons, the 30th President of the United States.

We thank and congratulate the National Notary Association for launching and successfully completing this project.   Thanks as well to the Coolidge Foundation for their vital assistance to this effort.

This milestone is also timely in another way.   We are so proud about the formal opening this weekend of the President Calvin Coolidge Museum and Education Center in the graceful and historic setting of President Coolidge’s home town of Plymouth Notch.  The Coolidge Foundation has overseen the creation of this wonderful year-round tribute.  We Vermonters feel the obligations of stewardship in these things.  Countless Vermonters have stood in his house and walked his neighborhood’s streets, as I have.   His presence is still felt in Vermont, as it should be.   We Vermonters are all proud of the legacy of Calvin Coolidge.

The Coolidge Foundation is faithfully tending to the preservation and dissemination of this part of Vermont’s legacy, and our country’s history.  We invite you all to come on up for a leisurely and memorable visit.

The wide-ranging essays in this collection evaluate and document the relevance of the legacy of Calvin Coolidge’s presidency to our times.  As a native Vermonter, I want to touch briefly on the enduring New England values that the nation glimpsed during his presidency.

Of Vermont, Calvin Coolidge once said:

“If the spirit of Liberty should vanish in other parts of this Union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.”

Vermont withheld our ratification of the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was part of it.

To this day, we Vermonters by our nature put a high premium on these rights — for ourselves, and for others.  

This includes our cherished right to privacy. 

Calvin Coolidge was steeped in these rock-ribbed values.  He believed, as Vermonters of today instinctively believe, that self restraint has a valuable place in public life. 

In a free and pluralistic society like ours, self restraint – not merely the sharper boundaries of the law – helps us live and prosper together.

We also would recognize much in this passage from a speech he gave in 1919, about individual freedom of thought and expression:

“Whatever tends to standardize the community, to establish fixed and rigid methods of thought, tends to fossilize society.  It is the ferment of ideas, the clash of disagreeing judgments, the privilege of the individual to develop his own thoughts and shape his own character, that makes progress possible.” 

These are words that can resonate as aptly today as they did in his time.

President Coolidge also matters because he represents a simpler time without spin, and without 24/7 cable news.  He spoke plainly and eloquently as a man of principle.

Those are timeless values that matter to us all.