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Coolidge Smiles

December 2023
1min read

I still live on the farm where my father was born in 1898. When I was small, my grandmother lived with us in the summer and spent the winter with her oldest son’s family in Baltimore. At Easter time in 1928 my mother and I took the train to Baltimore to visit before bringing Grandmother back with us to the upstate New York farm.

During that trip we all went to Washington to see the traditional Easteregg roll at the White House. My cousin Bob was six and I was five, so we participated with hundreds of other children in the festivities on the White House lawn. Afterward the children and their parents were invited into the White House to meet President Coolidge. As a five-year-old, the only political name in my vocabulary was Al Smith, who was governor of New York and the leading Democratic candidate for President. As we moved along in line to where President Coolidge stood shaking hands, I’m sure that Mother—a farm girl and a devoted Republican—was very excited. The excitement was lost on me, and as he took my hand, I looked up at her and asked, “When are we going to see Al Smith?” My mother was totally embarrassed, but President Coolidge broke into a wide grin.

My uncle told me afterward that I should never forget what I had accomplished: even Will Rogers, the famous humorist, had commented that he couldn’t make “Old Stone Face” smile.

—Richard McGuire is commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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