Monday, December 2, 2013

Silent Cal Was Orator

On September 4, 1923, the Associated Press (AP) reported that according to a biographical sketch in the Amherst College 25th Reunion Annual of the Class of 1895, Calvin Coolidge “always said something worth hearing.”  
When Calvin Coolidge became president after the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in August 1923, the country was anxious for information about him. Coolidge had gotten the public’s attention in 1919, when as the Massachusetts Governor, he handled the Boston Police Strike well. As we know, memories are short, and people wanted all the information that they could get about the new president. A frenzy of articles about Coolidge’s personality and character were feeding the public’s right and need to know.

In Oakland, California, Nelson Kingsland, a reporter and Coolidge classmate, had his copy of the Reunion Annual from 1920 and included the text of the bio in the AP article that he wrote. The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Mass. published it the same day, one month into the Coolidge presidency.
Coolidge was selected Grove Orator by his college class. The person the student’s selected needed a sense of humor since his job was to award funny prizes to popular students during graduation celebrations, according to this article.

In the fall of 1895, two other Amherst alumni, John Hammond and Henry P. Field agreed to train Coolidge at their law firm in Northampton, Massachusetts. At least one of them had heard the Grove Oration in June, and Coolidge’s wit entered into their decision.
His former classmates were generous with their praise in the 25th Annual:

“The fact that he has risen high in public office…does not rest at all upon self-seeking ambition, for he does not seek office, offices seek him...
We in ’95 do not honor him for his office; we honor him just as all people do – because he is Calvin Coolidge. Like Abraham Lincoln, a unique personality, a real man in an age when the world needs real men.”

*Nelson Kingsland had a career as an itinerant reporter and editor in New York City, Denver, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and on the west coast. He died at age 49 in May 1924, less than a year after his article helped the country understand its new president.

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