"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." by President Calvin Coolidge in The Power of Persistence. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
As we welcome the holidays, we are compelled to reflect on the past year and then set our vision on the future. Against multiple challenges, whether they are personal, professional, or concerns about the threats facing our great nation, one can find guidance and comfort in the powerful words of personal inspiration from a past President of the United States.
Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President in 1923. Catapulted into power when Warren Harding suddenly died in office, Coolidge was a no-nonsense New Englander. He brought integrity and hard work to the Oval Office. A self-effacing, modest man during the height of the Roaring 20's, he was known for being a man who chose his few words carefully while seeking an America where hard work was its own reward. Given the opportunity to run for a second full term, historians note he declined what would have surely been an Election Night victory with a simple sentence; "I do not chose to run."
In his retirement he would write newspaper columns and magazine articles. Among his contributions was a singular observation that carries as much weight in the 21st Century as it did one hundred years ago. Entitled "The Power of Persistence," he wrote, "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On!' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
History is the force behind Coolidge's instruction. Ludwig van Beethoven started becoming deaf by the age of 30 and yet he composed some of his most inspired works while losing his hearing. By the time he conducted his monumental Ninth Symphony musicians needed to turn him to face the audience so he could see their outpouring of emotion.
Helen Keller was deaf and blind from the time of her infancy at the turn of the century and yet she went on to international acclaim as one who overcame such disabilities to write a dozen books and would achieve a Bachelor of Arts college degree – an unheard of accomplishment for a disabled woman of that era.
Today there are daily examples of extraordinary persistence in contemporary headlines that could fill a bestselling book, making President Coolidge's observation as relevant as ever.
As we approach the year 2022, we need to embrace his philosophy that allows us to take pride in overcoming the most difficult of obstacles. Beyond a personal mission, it is a shared aspiration that our nation as a whole needs to embrace if we are to maintain our role as mankind's last best hope to live in a world of freedom, democracy and opportunity.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.