Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence

For Immediate Release: June 8, 1998
Further information: Ann Scanlon (617) 514-1662

The John F. Kennedy Library, in cooperation with the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, is sponsoring a conference on July 30-31, 1998, “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence.”

For more than half a century, at nearly all levels of American historical scholarship and education, Calvin Coolidge has been characterized as a complacent, lazy and humorless man and an extreme reactionary--hostile to government and progressive legislation, oblivious to the needs of working Americans and devoted only to the material wealth of the nation and the interests of business.

The two-day gathering, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Coolidge's accession to the presidency, will explore, analyze and discuss the historical evidence on which this view of the thirtieth president is based. We will try to separate myth and reality, examining carefully and as impartially as possible the origins and development of Coolidge's historical reputation. Historians, journalists and interested citizens will investigate Coolidge with an open mind and try to get beyond the tired clichés, distortions and inaccuracies which have obscured his record for so many decades. This effort, as the list of speakers suggests, will yield many surprises.

The conference is for scholars, teachers, students and interested citizens of all ages and walks of life. It is presented free, thanks to the generous support of several organizations. Advance registration is recommended.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, July 30, 1998

8:30: Welcoming remarks

John Coolidge, son of President Coolidge (by video)

Robert T. Stafford, former Vermont governor, United States senator and current president of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation

Sheldon M. Stern, historian, John F. Kennedy Library

8:45: “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye: A Keynote Talk”

Richard Norton Smith, commentator, historian and director of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum. He is the author of books on George Washington, Herbert Hoover, Thomas Dewey and Colonel Robert McCormick.

9:15: “Taking Calvin Coolidge Seriously: A Discussion of the Need for a New Look at the Thirtieth President of the United States”

Robert H. Ferrell, emeritus professor of history, Indiana University, author of The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

Robert Novak, syndicated columnist, author of The Reagan Revolution and Nixon in the White House, co-executive producer of CNN's "Capital Gang."

Hugh Sidey, author of or contributor to seven books on the presidency and political and White House correspondent for Time.

Richard Norton Smith, moderator

11:00: Coolidge and the Zen of Politics: How an Aloof, Reticent and Austere Man Achieved Success in Public Life

Hendrik Booraem V, author of The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895

11:45: Lunch Break

12:30: Calvin Coolidge and Me

Bernice Buresh, former Newsweek bureau chief and professor of Journalism at Boston University.

12:45: Calvin Coolidge: More Than Two Words -- A Solo Performance

Jim Cooke has portrayed Calvin Coolidge, Daniel Webster and Edward Everett at museums, libraries, theaters and other sites across the nation.

1:30: From the Legislature to the Corner Office: An Assessment of Coolidge’s Performance as a Massachusetts Political Leader

Michael S. Dukakis, governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1975-79 and 1983-91, and nominee of the Democratic Party for president, 1988

2:30: The Trauma of Death: President Coolidge and the Loss of His Son

Robert E. Gilbert, professor of political science at Northeastern University and author of The Mortal Presidency: Illness and Anguish in the White House.

3:30: William Allen White and the Origins of the Coolidge Stereotype

Sheldon M. Stern, director of the Kennedy Library's American History Project, an effort to improve the study of history in high schools.

4:15: Reception in the Pavilion and Tour of the Kennedy Library Museum

Friday, July 31, 1998

8:30: Coolidge Closeups

Cyndy Bittinger (moderator), executive director, Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.

"Coolidge and the Northampton Irish: A Strange Alliance"
Richard Garvey, newspaper editor and Northampton historian.

"Coolidge and the Vice Presidency"
J. R. Greene, author and collector of Coolidge memorabilia

"The Coolidges of Northampton: Memories of the President and His Two-Family House"
Allison Lockwood, author, former resident of Massassoit Street and neighbor of the Coolidges.

"My Grandmother, Grace Coolidge"
Lydia Coolidge Sayles, youngest daughter of John and Florence Coolidge.

10:00: Calvin Coolidge and Race: A Discussion of Coolidge's Record in Dealing with the Racial Tensions of the 1920s

Alvin Felzenberg, staff director of the Empowerment Subcommittee, Small Business Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, and frequent guest, CSPAN's "Washington Journal" and CNN's "Crossfire."

11:00: Coolidge and History: A Concluding Discussion from Several Perspectives

Jack Beatty (moderator), author of a biography of James Michael Curley and senior editor, The Atlantic Monthly

"A Novelist Takes on Calvin Coolidge"
John Derbyshire, author of Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream

"Growing Up a Coolidge"
Christopher Coolidge Jeter, great-grandson of President Coolidge

"Coolidge and American Business
Robert Sobel, professor of business history, Hofstra University, and author of Coolidge: An American Enigma

12:30: Lunch Break

1:15: Things of the Spirit: A Documentary Film on the Life of Calvin Coolidge

John Karol has been and independent film producer since 1969. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1982 for "Ben's Mill," a feature-length documentary about a Vermont craftsman.

2:00: Conclusion of the Conference

August 1: Old Home Day in Plymouth, Vt., sponsored by the Vermont Department for Historical Preservation

August 2: Gala celebrations and reenactment of the Homestead Inaugural, sponsored by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation

Information and Reservations:

To register for the conference send your name and daytime phone number to the Kennedy Library via telephone or E-mail. There is no cost for attending the conference. To reserve a box lunch for one or both days send a check to the library for $8.00 for each lunch, payable to "Kennedy Library Foundation."

John F. Kennedy Library
Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125
(617) 929-4571

For those who plan to stay overnight, a limited number of rooms have been reserved at the Sheraton-Braintree Hotel, 37 Forbes Road, Braintree, MA 02184. Call 781-848-0600 for reservations, and mention the Coolidge Conference to receive a special reduced rate.

For detailed information about the seventy-fifth anniversary gala celebration in Vermont, contact:

Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation
P.O. Box 97
Plymouth Notch, VT 05056
(802) 672-3389

For information about lodging in Vermont, contact the Ludlow Chamber of Commerce at 802-228-5830 or E-mail:

Sponsored by:

John F. Kennedy Library
Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation

With the enthusiastic support of:

American Antiquarian Society
Amherst College
Black River Academy Museum
Boston Public Library
Castleton State College
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Clarke School for the Deaf
Forbes Library, Northampton
Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum
Massachusetts Historical Society
New York Life Insurance Co.
Northeastern University
Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Office of the Governor, State of Vermont
St. Johnsbury Academy
University of Vermont
Vermont Division for Historic Preservation
Vermont Historical Society

And the financial support of:

Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation
John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
Lowell Institute
Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities