Silent Cal the broadcaster?

Long before there was FDR or Ronald Reagan, there was another Great Communicator sitting in the Oval Office. Although he was nicknamed Silent Cal, former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge was far from silent when it came to communicating policy and political ideas to the American people. In fact, Coolidge has just been selected for enshrinement in the Vermont Association of the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Coolidge, a Vermont native who was the 30th U.S. president, was the very first chief executive to recognize and harness the power of radio broadcasting. The Republican delivered 40 radio speeches to the American public, creating a bond between politics and mass media that continues to this day. Coolidge was born in Plymouth on July 4, 1872 and later became governor of Massachusetts. He was elected vice president in 1920, serving under Warren G. Harding, and was sworn in as president upon Hardings death in 1923. Coolidge was elected to a full term in 1924. He died in Northampton, Mass., in 1933. Speeches over the radio became Coolidges main campaign tool during the 1924 elections, when the Republican defeated Democrat candidate John Davis and Progressive candidate Robert LaFollette. Coolidge delivered powerful speeches over the radio during his presidency that easily predated President Franklin Roosevelts Fireside Chats by nearly a decade. One of the first experimental car radios installed in a 1920s-era Studebaker 8 was built by Motorola, now a worldwide manufacturer of mobile (cellular) telephones and defense electronics. During the test of the early car radio, engineers tuned into a Coolidge radio address being broadcast in New York. Installing a car radio in those days meant literally tearing a car apart, according to an account of the Motorola experiment by auto historian Rob Gottleib. Removing the dashboard, parts of the roof (for the big radio)... could leave a new car unfit for service. Early car radios cost as much as $675 in addition to the price of the vehicle. However, many of the first car radio users in the 1920s remember hearing Coolidge on regional broadcasts via powerful such radio stations such as WOR in New York and KYW and KDKA in Pennsylvania. Cyndy Bittinger, executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation in Plymouth, noted that many commentators claimed the radio speeches won the election for Coolidge. Coolidges great-grandchildren will attend the VAB dinner, May 2, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier. Ronald Whitcomb, veteran engineer at Vermont Public Television, will also be honored. Whitcomb built the statewide transmitter system for VPT during the 1960s; he is currently converting the states public T.V. system to digital broadcasting.

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