It is said that Calvin Coolidge, or Silent Cal, the 30th US president, didn’t work himself to a stanstill.
Taking into account that he generally slept 11 hours a night, supplemented by daily naps and some three-month extended vacations, the conclusion that he worked a maximum of 4 and a half hours a day doesn’t seem too far-fetched. And the times he was in the Oval Office, he often pulled out the bottom drawer of his desk, put his feet into it and counted the cars passing by on Pennsylvania Avenue.
When he passed away in 1933, Gertrude Stein reportedly remarked: “Coolidge dead? How can you tell?”
In 2 Kings 6 we are told of another leader, King Jehoram of Israel. With his city under siege by the Syrian army and Samaria experiencing a terrible famine, he walks on the city wall. While doing so, he hears the horrific story of two mothers who started eating their children in an effort to stay alive. On hearing that he tears his clothes in anguish and as he walks along, the people can see through the torn parts that he is wearing sackcloth under his clothes.
A sackcloth was a coarse cloth, made from goat or horse hair, worn as a sign of mourning. Under normal circumstances it was not visible to other people. Only the person wearing it was constantly aware of his/her pain and sorrow, represented by the sackcloth against the body. King Jehoram, not the best king there was, nevertheless carried his people’s anguish close to his heart.
Historians evaluating previous American presidents, often refer to Coolidge’s laziness.
It is a possibility that they lost sight of the bigger picture, or chose to ignore it.
Coolidge had been president for just over eleven months when his two sons, John and Calvin, played a game of tennis on a White House court. Calvin Junior developed a blister on his toe which turned into blood poisoning and led to his death a few days later.
Coolidge and his wife were devastated. For the rest of his life he blamed himself and his presidency in a sad, twisted way for his son’s death. He lost all interest in matters of state. He later wrote: “When he went, the power and the glory of the Presidency went with him.”
Maybe Silent Cal was lazy. Or maybe he was a loving, depressed father, sitting in the Oval Office, with his feet in a desk drawer and a sackcloth under his shirt.