“It was my hope to produce a book that would not only have some historical interest, but would be useful for those in public life, in educational work, in preparation for citizenship, and would be especially a book that parents would wish their children to read.” —President Calvin Coolidge on his autobiography Today Americans of all backgrounds are on the hunt for a different political model. In fact, such a model awaits them, if only they turn their eyes to their own past . . . to America’s thirtieth president, Calvin Coolidge.
Coolidge’s masterful autobiography offers urgent lessons for our age of exploding debt, increasingly centralized power, and fierce partisan division. This expanded and annotated volume, edited by Coolidge biographer Amity Shlaes and authorized by the Coolidge family, is the definitive edition of the text that presidential historian Craig Fehrman calls “the forgotten classic of presidential writing.”
To read this volume is to understand the tragic extent to which historians underrate President Coolidge. The Coolidge who emerges in these pages is a model of character, principle, and humility—rare qualities in Washington, then as now. A man of great faith, Coolidge told Americans: “Men do not make laws. They do but discover them.” Although he emphasized economics, Coolidge insisted on the importance of “things of the spirit.” At the height of his popularity, he chose not to run again when his reelection was all but assured. In this autobiography, Coolidge explains his mindset: “It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.”
For all his modesty, Coolidge left an expansive legacy—one we would do well to study today. Shlaes and coeditor Matthew Denhart draw out the lessons from Coolidge’s life and career in an enlightening introduction and annotations to Coolidge’s text. To aid Coolidge scholars young and old, the editors have also assembled nearly three dozen photographs, several of Coolidge’s greatest speeches, a timeline of Coolidge’s life, and afterwords by former Vermont governor James H. Douglas and two of Coolidge’s great-grandchildren, Jennifer Coolidge Harville and Christopher Coolidge Jeter.
This autobiography combats the myths about one of our most misunderstood presidents. It also shows us how much we still have to learn from Calvin Coolidge.
About the Author
Calvin Coolidge was the thirtieth president of the United States, serving in the White House from 1923 to 1929. He oversaw one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history and reduced the federal budget even as the economy grew.
Amity Shlaes (editor) is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Coolidge, The Forgotten Man, The Greedy Hand, and, most recently, Great Society. She chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.
Matthew Denhart (editor) serves as president of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.
"Calvin Coolidge was an astute president, and his memoir an underappreciated account of what it's truly like to preside at the pinnacle. This new edition of his autobiography—with his modesty, decorum, and steadfastness—offers us a resonant contrast to our own time." —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning presidential historian
“At a time of tremendous political division, Calvin Coolidge teaches us what humility and unity look like.” —Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist
“Calvin Coolidge may have been the last president who understood and revered the Founders' vision of self-government. In this spare and eloquent chronicle of his life, President Coolidge demonstrates his devotion and allegiance to those founding principles.” —Janice Rogers Brown, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (retired)