Coolidge and Adenauer

As a son of Germany’s Rhineland, I may be forgiven for being very fond of our first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, who was very much a son of the Rhineland himself, down to that regional accent that, at least to my ear, has a very familiar and pleasant ring. More than anyone else, he was responsible for leading Germany back into the community of civilized nations after the atrocities committed in its name under the Nazi dictatorship, as well as for the economic policies that brought unprecedented prosperity to the country.

Adenauer and Coolidge were, by and large, contemporaries, having been born in 1876 and 1872, respectively; however, Adenauer lived considerably longer than Coolidge and indeed was elected to the chancellorship only at the age of 73; he subsequently (and amazingly) held that office for 14 years. There is no record that I know of of their ever having met, coresponded, or even expressed an awareness of the other’s existence. However, there are similarities between the two men in terms of their personal humility, modesty and frugality.

Adenauer voiced the following, Coolidgean sentiments in his farewell address to the German parliament on October 15, 1963:  “(…) I am going to listen. (…) I hope to be only  speaking occasionally. (…) One should not speak too much. The words of those who speak all the time will not be afforded much attention. One ought to speak only when it is absolutely necessary. ”

Adenauer at 80, in 1956, with his son Georg

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