Written by Robert Sobel, Coolidge – An American Enigma tells the life story of the United States’ 30th president. After reading this book, I have gained an appreciation of the tough choices facing presidents. Like today there is union vs. non-union, big business taking over government, and the polarizing political viewpoints held by newspapers and the general population. I was appalled by the Republican infighting, the low wages and long hours that Boston police had to work, and the political jockeying of the day. Coolidge’s demeanor is accurately portrayed as a man of few words, well educated, and an introvert. I was amazed that a man like Coolidge could become president; it makes me know that God does intervene in human affairs. I have learned a great deal from Coolidge’s life.
A few governing tips that I picked up from Coolidge was to have faith in your subordinates by allowing them to make their own decisions, wait for opportune times to act (as in the Boston Police strike), be a man of character, enforce the laws written and not add more, and finally limit the federal government.
I enjoyed these aspects of the book:
- Page 29 – Coolidge looked to Cicero (a political moderate who held that law and honoring tradition preserve stability and liberty)
- Page 37 – Coolidge had a teacher inspire his philosophical worldview. “He [Garmin] meant that we should try to guide ourselves by general principles and not get lost in particulars.”
- Page 197 – Sobel defines history as “More often than not we stumble through the present, try to make sense of the past, and wonder what the future may bring.”
- Page 301 – Coolidge states in the 1925 Inaugural Address “I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom.”
- Page 387 – Coolidge says “The end of government is to keep open the opportunity for a more abundant life.”
A few times during the book the writing was dry and it seemed like the writer would go off on a tangent bur overall a good book.