Calvin Coolidge photo

Excerpts of the President's News Conference

April 14, 1925

Here is a suggestion that instead of shaking hands with people that come here to the White House, that they be assembled out on the lawn and I go out and make them a speech. I don't view that with much approval. I do not at all dislike shaking hands. It brings me into a personal contact which you can't get any other way. I am sure that the people that come to Washington are much more pleased with an opportunity to pass through the line and shake hands with me, even though it is a rather formal and distant method of greeting, than they would be to gather anywhere and have me say a few words to them. I also know that it takes me less time and is easier for me. I rather like the handshaking. I can't give up more than 15 minutes or half an hour each day to it, but I can take care of a good many people here in that length of time.

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I don't know of any special proposal about legislation to give the President power to transfer and consolidate various bureaus of the Federal establishment. I hadn't given that any special thought, because I had been interested in the reorganization bill which has never been acted on, and which I suppose will come up for action in the next Congress, which takes care of that kind of work. Now, looked at from its business side, of course the work of the Government has to be constantly supervised and checked up like the work of any business. Otherwise, it runs to seed. I don't know whether any of you happened to hear the story about the sentinel that was posted in the Garden of the European emperors, and finally someone undertook to inquire why the sentinel was posted at that particular place. Careful investigation revealed that more than 100 years before that there had been a rose bush and that bush had a very handsome flower on it and the empress wanted that flower protected. So the sentinel had been posted there to protect that flower, and nobody having looked into the matter the sentinel was still on duty years after the rose bush was gone. Now, unless you keep constant supervision over any kind of business, newspaper business, or the business of running the Government, it will run to seed and you will have men trying to function when the reason for their functions no longer exists. So that we have to keep constant supervision over the executive department and, of course, at this time we haven't yet finished up all the work of getting rid of our war activities. We ran into a great many activities at that time that are not needed in time of peace. While those are mostly closed up, yet it is a good idea to be constantly watchful to see if we are trying to carry on any activities of government that are no longer needed. While I am constantly engaged in this general idea, I haven't at the present time any specific plan about it, nor am I doing anything more than would be the ordinary routine of the executive department.

* * * * * * *

There was nothing particularly developed in the Cabinet meeting this morning, other than the report from Secretary Hoover, which I presume will be given to the press, relative to our exports and imports. The last month I think they were the largest of any during peace time, and if they were reduced to the same value in dollars and cents it would be—so as to have them the same as would be represented by prices before the war—they showed that our exports and imports are about 50 per cent larger than they were in 1914. Now, no other countries that were engaged in the Great War have been able to make any showing like that, and I think substantially all of them have exports and imports nowhere near what they were before the war; some of them very much less. But those of Great Britain, I think, are just about even. That is larger than what I thought their increase had been.

Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.

Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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