See you in C-U-B-A: Calvin Coolidge in Havana

Irving Berlin’s hit song, “See you in C-U-B-A,” popular in the 1920s, touted the “lively atmosphere” on the largest Caribbean island, exhorting would-be revelers to escape the land of Prohibition and to “travel with us on a train or a bus to Miami where we can begin to plan a wonderful trip on a plane or a ship that’ll take us from Florida to Havana – see you in C-U-B-A!” President Coolidge took that advice, but with a different purpose in mind.

President Coolidge attending a chirch service aboard the U.S.S. Texas

President Coolidge attending a church service aboard the U.S.S. Texas

On his only foreign visit, Calvin Coolidge went to Havana in early 1928 to address the Sixth Pan American Conference there. Coolidge and his delegation, which included Secretaries Kellogg and Wilbur, former Secretary Hughes and Ambassador Morrow as well as journalist/writer H.L. Mencken and humorist Will Rogers, had left Washington by rail (the “Coolidge Special”) on January 13 for Key West (not Miami!) and, having departed there on the battleship (and flagship of the U.S. Navy) U.S.S.Texas early on January 15, arrived at Havana on the afternoon of that same day. Along with hosting Cuban president Gerardo Machado, a large and enthusiastic crowd welcomed him there, celebrating the fact that his visit marked the first time a sitting U.S. president had put his foot not only on the soil of Cuba, but of any foreign nation on the American continent. Coolidge’s address on the occasion of the opening of the conference on January 16 also marked the first time that a U.S. president had thus spoken to a non-U.S. audience.

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Depression-proof investing

Amity Shlaes is tweeting tidbits from Coolidge’s comings and goings as a countdown to the publication of her all-new biography of the 30th president. Yesterday, she shared that Coolidge bought shares in Standard Brands at the time of its creation by merger. The financial news media of the day touted this and other food company stocks as being depression-proof, much as stocks of food and other consumer staples firms have been thought of ever since. I’m not sure if Coolidge had a sizable or diversified stock portfolio; I expect he owned shares of New York Life, where he was a director,

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Eisenhower, Coolidge, Daniels – beloved reluctant candidates?

In what has been called “Broder’s Law,” the late David Broder stated that anyone who is prepared to do what you have to do to become president shouldn’t be allowed to be president. And truly, in an ideal world, ability, not ambition, should be the decisive factor in determining who should govern.

These days more so than in the past, however, it seems that politicians have to engage in near-constant campaigning to attain and then keep public office. And while we the voters realize and have come to expect this, we also regret and despise it; we yearn for the candidate who is reluctant, ideally someone who already has made their mark in a non-political field, has accomplished something and could enjoy the fruits of his or her success, and only through the great clamor of the man in the street is talked into running for office.

Yes, we like to see some reluctance on the part of politicians, as described well by Irving Berlin in the song “They Like Ike” from the musical “Call Me Madam”, the song that became something of a campaign song for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“They like Ike, and Ike is good on a mike;

they like Ike, but Ike says he don’t wanna.”

“That makes Ike they kind of fella they like,

and what’s more, they seem to think he’s gonna.”

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