National Geographic : 1965 Oct
HARRIS & EWING Lines of curious Americans crowd the White House sidewalk to attend a New Year's Day reception during the Coolidge Administration. The President met the public almost daily. "On one occasion I shook hands with nineteen hundred in thirty-four minutes," the Vermonter recalled in his Autobiography, "which is probably my record. Instead of a burden, it was a pleasure ... to meet people in that way and listen to their greeting...." He once told Bernard Baruch why he often sat silently through interviews in his office: "Well, Baruch, many times I say only 'yes' or 'no' to people. Even that is too much. It winds them up for twenty minutes more." On the other hand, no President was kind er in permitting himself to be photographed in Indian war bonnets or cowboy dress, and in greeting innumerable delegations (page 568). And he was the last President whom every visitor to Washington could meet. At about 12:30 most afternoons a line-up of several hundred persons filed through the President's office to shake his hand. Serves as National Geographic Trustee Coolidge's dry Yankee wit and his frugality with words became legendary. The story of the young woman who sat next to Coolidge at a dinner party is typical. She told him she had bet she could get at least three words of con versation out of him. Without looking at her, 570 he quietly retorted, "You lose." And in 1927, while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he issued the most famous of his statements, "I do not choose to run for Presi dent in nineteen twenty eight." He retired from the Presidency in 1929, and that year became a member of the National Geographic Society's Board of Trustees. His biographer, Claude M. Fuess, who calls him "a great and good man," sums up the Coolidge Presidency: "He was a safe pilot, not a brilliant one. Under him the nation was not adventurous, but it was happy. He won no battles, challenged no traditions, instituted few reforms. What he would have done with a war or a depression on his hands is a fascinating subject for speculation." But when the Great Depression hit, Coolidge was in retirement; shortly before his death in January, 1933, he confided to an old friend, "I feel I no longer fit in with these times." He is buried in Plymouth, Vermont.