By Steve Goodier
Not many people realize that President Calvin Coolidge did not
always live in the White House. As Vice-President, he became President upon the
death of Warren G. Harding. Mrs. Harding continued to live in the White House
for a time, so the Coolidges remained where they had been living - in the
third-floor suite of the nearby Willard Hotel.
Once in the middle of the night, the new President awoke to see
an intruder going through his clothes. He watched as the thief first removed a
wallet, then unhooked a watch chain. Coolidge calmly spoke up from the darkness:
"About that watch, I wish you wouldn't take that."
The startled man, gaining his voice, asked, "Why?"
Coolidge answered, "I don't mean the watch and chain, only the
charm. I'm very fond of that charm. It means a great deal to me. Take it near
the window and read what is engraved on the back of it."
The burglar read: "Presented to Calvin Coolidge, Speaker of the
House, by the Massachusetts General Court." And now he was more surprised!
"Are you President Coolidge?" he asked. He evidently did not
think he'd find the President sleeping in a hotel!
"Yes, I am, and I don't want you to take that charm," he said.
Then he asked, "Why, Son, are you doing this?"
The young man explained that he and a friend traveled to
Washington during their college break. They spent all of their money and had no
money to pay the hotel bill or pay for train passage back to school. "If you
don't mind," he said, "I'll just take the wallet."
Coolidge did mind. He knew he had about $80 in his wallet. So he
said, "How much will it take to pay your hotel bill and get you and your friend
back to the campus? Sit down and let's talk this over."
Coolidge added up the room rate and two rail tickets. It came to
$32. That may not sound like much now, but it was a considerable sum then. "I'll
give you the $32 as a loan," the President said, "and I expect you to pay me
The youth thanked him. Coolidge then advised him to leave by the
same window he used to enter the room, as secret service agents were sure to be
patrolling the hallway. As the young man climbed out, Coolidge left him with
this admonition: "Son, you're a nice boy. You are better than you are acting.
You are starting down the wrong road. Just remember who you are."
It wasn't until after the death of Mrs. Coolidge in 1957 that
this story was allowed to come out. It was first published in the "Los Angeles
Times." And most interesting of all is that the President's notes show that the
young man was indeed better than he was acting. He repaid the $32 loan in full.
Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound, said this: "There is
more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of
our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less."
Steve Goodier Publisher@LifeSupportSystem.com
is a professional speaker, consultant and author of numerous books. Visit his
site for more information, or to sign up for his FREE newsletter of Life, Love
and Laughter at http://LifeSupportSystem.com.