The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘the President’

A MAN OF FEW WORDS

There was a man from Vermont named Calvin Coolidge who became the 30th President of the United States.  He was dubbed, “Silent Cal” because of his terse conversational style.  I have just finished reading Claude M. Fuess’ excellent biography.  We would do well today to emulate much of what President Coolidge espoused and did during his time in office.

Coolidge rose through the ranks to become the Governor of Massachusetts.  He came to the nation’s attention when in 1919 the Boston Police went on strike.  Boston’s Police Commissioner, Edwin Curtis had threatened to suspend any officers who organized in a union.  He ultimately carried out his promise.  As a consequence, three quarters of the force walked off the job.

Samuel Gompers then the President of the AFL stated that the Commissioner acted inappropriately in denying the Boston Police’s right to form a union.  Several days of rioting and lawlessness ensued in the absence of law enforcement.  Coolidge responded to Gompers via telegram:

“Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded.  That furnished the opportunity, the criminal element furnished the action.  There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.”

As Governor, Coolidge signed into law a reduction in the number of hours that women and children were allowed to work; presented the State Legislature with a balanced budget by trimming expenses without raising taxes and vetoed a bill that would have provided state legislators a fifty percent pay increase.  He also vetoed a bill that would have allowed beverages with low levels of alcohol to have been sold in the state, although he personally opposed Prohibition:

“Opinions and instructions do not outmatch the Constitution…”

In 1920 Coolidge was surprisingly nominated to be Vice-President on the ticket headed by Warren G. Harding.  Harding’s administration was plagued with scandal and it was largely through Coolidge’s efforts and reputation that faith was restored in the White House when President Harding passed away suddenly in 1923 and Coolidge succeeded him.

Coolidge was nominated the Republican candidate for President at that party’s convention in 1924.  Despite the sorrow he experienced because of the unexpected death of his younger son, he conducted his re-election campaign in a dignified manner, without speaking poorly of his opponents, preferring to express his opinion on his theory of how government should be conducted.

The Coolidge administration, guided by its Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, the third highest taxpayer in the country after John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, lowered the rate of Federal taxation while reducing spending so that by the end of his first elected term in office, one quarter of the national debt was retired.  The only Americans who paid income taxes as a result of their policies were the top two percent of income earners.

Coolidge was adamant in his support of equal civil rights for all Americans and signed into law the “Indian Citizenship Act” granting all Native Americans full citizenship.

“Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color.  I have taken my oath to support that Constitution.”

Perhaps the most often repeated, if perhaps apocryphal exchange, which highlighted Coolidge’s moniker as “Silent Cal” was reported to have occurred between the President and writer, satirist, Dorothy Parker.

Parker was supposedly seated next to the President and said,

“I have a bet with a friend that I can get you to say more than two words.”

Coolidge reportedly turned to her and said,

“You lose.”

Perhaps the essence of Coolidge’s view on the office to which he had been elected was best expressed in his statement:

“The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.”

As this man of few words believed, less is more.  Words for all of us to remember.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE IMPORTANT

First, let me thank each and every person who has stopped by, read one or more of my posts and especially those who have subscribed to this blog.  Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to know if there is anyone actually reading this material.  But the most convincing evidence of that is the fact that many of you have taken the time to critique a particular post by leaving a comment.

Your comments are important to me.  They not only keep me on my toes, but they have provided me some ideas which I have incorporated in later posts.  A recent comment left by a reader is, in fact, the reason for writing this post.

This is our exchange from the post https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/an-open-letter-to-president-obama-on-fathers-day/

nearlynormalized said:

June 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

You must understand–BPT (as told to me my my African American friends—”Black People Time.” What’s the rush?

I responded:

I heard it as CPT (Colored People’s Time) and either term is demeaning.  It implies that some people, for whatever reason, should be held to a lesser standard because otherwise, they’re not good enough to compete.  If that isn’t racism and paternalism I don’t know what is.

This exchange grew out of a comment that I had made in the post regarding the fact that if there is one thing which has been consistent about the Obama presidency it is that he is consistently late.

In earlier posts I discussed tardiness several times.  I know that in grammar school I was expected to be on time.  It was so important that children who came to school late received “tardy slips”.  Apparently our educators believe that you can’t learn anything if you aren’t present to absorb the information.

Then there was my father.  He taught me that being on time was respectful of the person with whom you were meeting.  I carried this lesson with me through life.  It caused me to change dentists when the new one I had selected kept me waiting for one hour for each of my three appointments with her.  My thinking was that if she weren’t competent at scheduling her patients, how good was the quality of service she provided me?

Let’s consider this from another standpoint – that of the farmer who gets his seed planted late – and then harvests it late as well.  What kind of crop is he going to have available to sell?  A poor one.  Timeliness matters to the farmer and to those of us who expect these hard-working people to do their job in a timely and efficient matter so that when we go to the produce section of our supermarkets there is actually something there for us to buy.

I believe that timeliness is “mental body language.”  We unconsciously manifest our attitude toward those with whom we have dealings by how we respect or how we disrespect the value of their time.  It is an outward manifestation of our inner view of life.

Let’s consider this in terms of President Obama’s administration.  After three and one half years we have ample evidence to support this suggestion.

When the President took office he was faced with filling important government posts.  Most previous Presidents accomplished that within two months of being sworn in.  It took Obama six months.

The President was faced with a crisis – it was called unemployment.  The person who was capable of prioritizing should have understood that it was the most important issue on the table (and still is).

The first two years of President Obama’s administration were spent wrangling over producing a healthcare bill which the vast majority of Americans oppose and producing Dodd/Frank, a bill whose implications are so unclear that businesses are afraid to hire.   The result is that we still have an official unemployment rate of 8.2% and the rate among African-Americans, the constituency who voted for the President nearly unanimously, has one twice as high.

Whether you accept my logic on punctuality may depend on whether you agree with Shakespeare’s statement, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”  But I can tell you that when I cast my vote this November, I am going to give it to a person whom I believe has respect for me and for all people in this country.

And I am going to cast that vote early.

ON GETTING FIRED

 

I have never been fired from a job and for that I am very grateful. However, on more occasions than I care to think about I have had to let one of my employees go. I always found that was the worst part of owning a business. I am not sure if it was more traumatic for me or for the employee I had to fire. I almost always considered an employee’s failure not their fault but mine.

My reasoning in making that last statement is quite simple. Either I had made a poor decision in hiring the individual in the first place, or I had failed to educate them sufficiently in the culture of my business so that they could conduct themselves in the manner and meet the high standards I set.

In rare cases, a very competent employee experienced a life-changing personal event which affected his or her performance. In those few cases I always tried to work with that individual, allowing them time to recover from their trauma. All but one of those continued in my employment.

Most companies conduct an annual review of their employees’ performance. As a nation, we conduct that review less frequently – every two years in the case of our employees who are members of the House of Representatives and for one third of those in the Senate; and every four years for the person who runs the American business – the President.

If I were a teacher, I think I would be called an “easy grader.” But in reviewing the performance of our employees in Washington, I would be writing D-minus on their term papers. Frankly, their performance (or more exactly their lack of performance) is simply not acceptable – even by my easy grading standards.

I would love to refer to halcyon days when everything in Washington was wonderful, a day when those we elected to the Congress or the White House truly had the country’s best interests – rather than their own – at heart. There have been a few moments when that was true – but far too few. And the reason for that is one thing – it is our apathy as a people.

I recently spoke with a ninety-three year old friend. I have looked in on him on a regular basis since he lost his wife three years ago. They had been married for over seventy years and he took his wife’s death with understandable difficulty. I bring food over for him since he was totally dependent on her to do the cooking. I was concerned that he wasn’t eating well. He wasn’t.

As we sat chatting one day, somehow we got on the subject of what is happening in America and then we began talking about politics. I was shocked that my friend revealed that he had never voted in his life. As he put it – he left that to his wife.

Making an informed decision about those whom we elect to public office and doing our best to promote their candidacy is one of the fundamental rights – and, I believe – obligations in which we all must participate. The ultimate expression of that is casting our vote in an election.

I admit that as an “employer” I am seldom responsible for hiring those who my fellow citizens ultimately select to represent all of us. The fact that I usually vote for losing candidates will not deter me from doing what I regard as my duty.

I will continue to look for candidates who meet the standards I believe all of us have the right to expect of those who hold public office. And I will continue to vote to fire those who have abrogated their contract with the American people.

 

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