Heartland Events

Charles C. Johnson: 'Why Coolidge Matters'

The Heartland Institute
One South Wacker Drive Suite 2740
Chicago, Illinois 60606
July 18, 2013, 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM

Imagine a country in which strikes by public-sector unions occupied the public square; where foreign policy wandered aimlessly as America disentangled itself from wars abroad and a potential civil war on its southern border; where racial and ethnic groups jostled for political influence; where a war on illicit substances led to violence in its cities; where technology was dramatically changing how mankind communicated and moved about — and where the educated harbored increasing contempt for the philosophic underpinnings of our republic.

That country, the America of the 1920s, looked a lot like America today. One would think, then, that the President who successfully navigated these challenges, Calvin Coolidge, might be esteemed today. Instead, Coolidge’s record is little known, the result of efforts by both the left and right to distort his legacy.

Charles C. Johnson's Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated Presidentrevisits the record of our 30th president, examining Coolidge's views on governance, public sector unions, education, race, immigration, and foriegn policy. Most importantly, Why Coolidge Matters explains what lessons Coolidge — the last president to pay down the national debt — can offer the limited government movement in the post industrial age.

What They Are Saying About Why Coolidge Matters

"Why Coolidge Matters could not appear at a better time. In it, Charles Johnson shatters the myth that Calvin Coolidge was a president of little influence and brings to life a man of deep convictions, courage, and incredible talent for clearly communicating economic struggles in moral terms. In our era of economic malaise, we should learn from the president whose tax cuts helped ignite one of America’s greatest economic booms. Anyone interested in the cause of free markets and liberty would do well to read this book."

— U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

"This is a very energetic and engaging amplification of the strong points of Coolidge’s presidency and administrative techniques. It is a welcome addition to the growing literature on whether Coolidge was, as Charles Johnson claims, an underrated and commendable leader, and not, as majority historical opinion has long held, a simplistic and dangerously detached president. It is a lively and imaginative case presented by a very promising young historian and commentator."

— Conrad Black, author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom,
Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and the recently published A Matter of Principle.

"It turns out that our Cal wasn’t as silent as we thought. Coolidge’s life speaks volumes about the sad state of contemporary politics, and may offer a map for the way out. Charles Johnson’s smart and entertaining book about our witty, wise, and humane 30th president is a must-read for anyone who cares about the history of the presidency, or its future."

— Tucker Carlson, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller

"In a time when we suffer from the follies of a celebrity president, Charles Johnson’s short sparkling account of Calvin Coolidge, the citizen president who valued experience over theory and individual accountability rather than social salvation, is a welcome occasion."

— Fred Siegel, scholar in residence at St. Francis College
and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute

"To preserve our freedom, we must recover both our principles and our past. Calvin Coolidge is a figure from the past who possessed profound knowledge of our principles and the eloquence to explain them. Charles Johnson — precocious, energetic, and knowledgeable himself — brings real ability to the work of recovering Coolidge, and so he helps us to better know our country and ourselves."

— Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and author of The Founders’ Key

"Johnson's book is essential reading for those interested in presidential leadership. He shines the spotlight on one of America's most successful, yet unappreciated, chief executives. Knowing full well the proper use of executive power, Silent Cal had a steady hand on the ship of state. Johnson makes the case that Coolidge should enter the pantheon of America's great Presidents."

—John Yoo, law professor at the University of California, Berkeley,
and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

"Charles Johnson's Why Coolidge Matters is a timely, riveting profile of one of America's most unsung presidents. We all have much to learn from Calvin Coolidge's adherence to thrift; devotion to his Christian faith; emphasis on character and civic virtue; and demonstrated commitment to public service and first principles. Myths on both the Left and Right abound about 'Silent Cal.' Johnson's vibrant scholarship clears the air and sheds new light on a commander-in-chief who modeled long-forgotten, but desperately needed, leadership traits of restraint, discipline, and prudence. As the conservative movement ponders its future, Why Coolidge Matters provides a compelling reason to look to its forgotten past for inspiration."

— Michelle Malkin, author, blogger, and syndicated columnist

"According to Mr. Johnson, Coolidge was 'great' because he was 'modest, moderate, and thoroughly republican in an immodest time.' By embracing common-sense policies derived from a shrewd observation of human nature, Coolidge presided over a period of economic growth, governmental restraint and American idealism. America would be wise to learn from him, and Mr. Johnson’s book is a good starting place."

— David Wilezol, The Washington Times 

About the Author

Charles C. Johnson is an independent writer. His work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, City Journal, The New Criterion, Reason, Tablet Magazine, and The Claremont Review of Books.

He has been the recipient of both the Robert L. Bartley Fellowship and Eric Breindel Award at the WSJ, the Robert Novak Award at the Philips Foundation, and the Publius Fellowship at the Claremont Institute. He lives in the San Gabriel Valley with his fiancée and is presently writing a political biography of Barack Obama.

Watch Charles C. Johnson talk about Why Coolidge Matters on C-SPAN's "Booknotes" program. Follow Charles C. Johnson on Twitter.

Watch Charles C. Johnson's talk on Coolidge below, and listen to his appearance on the Heartland Daily Podcast.