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Calvin, robin, and us
Calvin, Robin, and Us
This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the first annual dinner of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation as they presented their first-ever Coolidge Prize for Journalism and the Calvin Prize for Youth. I attended for two reasons: Coolidge attended St. Johnsbury Academy before entering Amherst College and his legacy is part of our legacy; and, more importantly, we had a finalist for the Calvin Prize—Robin Vincent. In fact, three of our students were selected as part of the top 10, and two in the top four, Yasmin Bozemen and Scott Battison also receiving honors. I was proud of all of them that night, and especially of Robin, who, with her teacher Jenny Mackenzie, was a gracious and beautiful representative of the people of the Academy.
The event was very well done: attended by dignitaries like Governor Jim Douglas, Steve Forbes, and Paul Volcker; held at the beautiful Four Seasons Restaurant in New York; and interweaving history, humor, and economics throughout a delicious meal. The star of the night was Calvin Coolidge, who was celebrated for his fiscally conservative policies, his taciturn demeanor in a profession usually profuse with bombast, and his genuinely good character as he vigorously upheld core values such as simplicity, perseverance, and service. The air was thick with Coolidge quotes and stories, such as:
• “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.” • “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.” • And the famous story of the woman who told him at a dinner party, “Mr. Coolidge, I just
bet my friend I could make you say more than two words tonight,” to which he responded, “You lose.”
As inspiration for her essay, Robin used a Coolidge quote: “Industry, thrift, and self-control are not sought because they create wealth, but because they create character.” She then went on to describe time spent with a homesteader in Sheffield, reveling in the simplicity, independence, and hard work of that lifestyle and reflecting on its triumph over the consumerism and materialism that absorbs so much of our time and energy. She also described the easy conversations and friendly debates that knit her group of friends together, contrasting that with the “petty clash of egos” and “bitter nervousness” that has crippled decision-making at the highest levels of our society. She stated that the four hand-made walls of this homesteader’s cabin “enclose the keys to happiness as Vermonters have defined them for generations: self-sufficiency, goodwill, and hard work.” And she expanded her focus by reflecting, “The values this country was founded on—diligence and hard work and personal sacrifice—have been consigned to the backcountry.”
Her closing paragraph was a powerful reminder of why I chose to spend the last 30 years in the Northeast Kingdom, and a reminder to us all of how to get through these days of dimming light and increasing workloads:
In this small corner of a small state, there is nothing more important than this grit, this special brand of determination conceived in the satisfaction of a hard day’s work, and this achingly beautiful stubbornness shut up in a one-room house with a roaring fire and four friends laughing.
In my opinion, Robin’s essay was the best kind of writing: creative, masterfully crafted, eloquent, and filled with original insights based upon personal experience. She wrote about what she knew, work and food and good times, and her life—not only as a gifted student and talented runner, but as hardworking gardener and loyal friend—has led her to the same beliefs as Calvin Coolidge, her predecessor at the Academy.
That’s what I tried to express when I was asked to give a toast to President Coolidge at the dinner. I said:
An excerpt from Coolidge’s speech “Vermont Is a State I Love” is painted on a panel in Fuller Hall, the venue for our morning Chapel, and every day it resonates with our students—whether they come from one of the over 40 Vermont and New Hampshire towns who give families vouchers or from one of the 30 countries from around the world who send us students annually. It reads in part, “I love Vermont for her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others.”
So I raise a glass to schools who teach compassion, perseverance, and responsibility to serve others—and to the President who did the same—and to the hope that all of you will take the time to visit us in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to catch a glimpse of the hills and the spirit that so inspires our school and inspired this great President.
And so today I want to toast Robin, Scott, Yasmin, and all of our students who demonstrate these values—and to the people of this beautiful part of this State—knowing full well that if any of those Coolidge fans do come to visit, they will walk away as inspired as Coolidge did and as enriched as I have been over the past three decades by the grit, laughter, and goodness of the people here.—Tom Lovett, Headmaster
References chapter 48 (10 key references can also be found in the Textbook directly) 10 Key references Doherty, M., et al., A randomised controlled trial of ibuprofen, paracetamol or a combination tablet of ibuprofen/paracetamol in community-derived people with knee pain. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 2011. 70(9): p. 1534-41. Grosser T, Fries S, FitzGerald GA. Biological basis fo
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