We note with interest Jeff Danziger’s article in The Times Argus, “Hands off Coolidge,” referencing our recent article, “New England’s gift to America.” Mr. Danziger’s article makes assertions that are simply inaccurate. We write to correct the record.
First, Mr. Danziger writes that “together with someone named Matthew Denhart she (Amity Shlaes, chairwoman of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation) wrote in last Sunday’s paper that Coolidge would be on the side of the current right-wing Republicans and maybe even be a tea party member.”
We urge readers to have a look at the original piece written by Denhart and Shlaes. In it there is not a single mention of the words “Republican” or “tea party.” What’s more, the overall tone of the original article did not suggest any kind of affiliation between President Coolidge and current-day political movements or parties. Rather, the article made it clear that all Americans today could learn much from the example President Coolidge set.
The general suggestion behind Mr. Danziger’s article was that Coolidge is somehow being kidnapped by a group with an agenda to Coolidge’s right. This is untrue. For starters, Coolidge was a conservative Republican as president. The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation would dishonor him if it failed to include Republicans or speakers who share similar views in its roster of events and speakers.
That said, the foundation is not party political. Recent or upcoming speakers at Coolidge foundation sponsored events include Gov. Peter Shumlin, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Brian Lamb, founder of C-SPAN. Far from promoting a “Republican” worldview, these speakers have been apolitical. A presidential foundation invites figures of all backgrounds to come and speak. This is as it should be. After all, diversity of views is important for robust democracy.
The Coolidge foundation’s main project is debate in which young people learn about and present both sides of an argument. Last summer, Vermonters joined citizens from across the country, including a federal judge and a former U.S. ambassador, in judging high school debate at Plymouth Notch. We look forward to another year of successful high school presidential debate, with programs at Plymouth Notch on July 8, July 10 or Aug. 1.
One final word: Coolidge himself loved debate, finding his own voice through debate at Plymouth Notch, at Black River Academy in Ludlow, and then, finally, at Amherst College. Coolidge deplored incivility and eschewed the ad hominem attack. The current discussions reinforce the main point of our original article: America would benefit much today from a revival of Coolidge’s timeless example of civility.
James H. Douglas
Matthew Denhart is the executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, where James H. Douglas, the 80th governor of Vermont, and Arthur Crowley are trustees. Jerry Wallace is on the foundation’s national advisory board.
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