When you studied history in high school or college, you may have come across this quote, attributed to President Calvin Coolidge: “The business of America is business.”
Problem is, Silent Cal never said that. It is fake history, a misquotation from a speech that Coolidge gave to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on January 17, 1925. Here is the full quote, in context, from that speech:
There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life.
Toward the end of his speech, Coolidge added:
It is only those who do not understand our people, who believe that our national life is entirely absorbed by material motives. We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction.
Calvin Coolidge has long been given the short shrift by many academic historians, which is no surprise given their typically left-wing political views. After all, in their morality play version of history every Messiah (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) needs his Adversary. But in this case, the official narrative is not the truth. Which raises an inevitable and troubling question: what else have we been mistaught?