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503 Topics: American Presidents – Calvin Coolidge; further versus furthermore versus more; resilience versus resistance; You can say that again.

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 503.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 506. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to ESLPod.com and become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download the Learning Guide for this episode, an eight- to ten-page guide that will give you all of the important information you need including a complete transcript of everything I say.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. Even if you’ve never heard of President Coolidge, I think you’ll find his story interesting. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

John Calvin Coolidge was born on the Fourth of July, 1872. The Fourth of July is, of course, an important date in the history of the United States. It’s the date on which our Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. So, it’s sort of our national birthday. There’s nothing more American than to be born on the Fourth of July – or for that matter, to die on the Fourth of July.

Two of our most famous presidents died on the Fourth of July. My own father was born on the Fourth of July. Well, John Calvin Coolidge was born on the Fourth of July in the state of Vermont, which is located in the northeast part of the United States. He was an only child – his parents didn’t have any other children – and was raised in Vermont by his father and mother.

Coolidge was very shy growing up. He was what we might describe as a “taciturn” boy. “Taciturn” (taciturn) is an adjective that describes a person who doesn’t talk very much. It’s not a common adjective. You’ll probably read it more often than hear it, but today you’re hearing it – unless of course you’re reading our Learning Guide, in which case you’re reading it. Coolidge, in any case, was a taciturn young boy, but he worked hard and did very well in school.

He graduated in 1895 from a very good college called Amherst, located in – where else? – Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1897, Coolidge began practicing law. “To practice law” means to work as a lawyer. I’m not sure why we use “practice,” but we also use it for medicine – we talk about a person “practicing medicine.” We mean that he or she is a doctor. “If you’re “practicing law,” you’re working as a lawyer. And that’s what Calvin Coolidge began doing in 1897.

His name was John Calvin Coolidge, but he went by his middle name, Calvin. I should try that. I should go by my middle name, Lawrence. Lawrence McQuillan, yeah. Maybe I’ll start doing that. In 1898, Calvin Coolidge became involved in politics by joining his local city council. A “city council” (council) is basically the group of representatives from a local town or city that help run or govern the city.

In most cities in the United States, there is a leader called the “mayor” (mayor) as well as an elected group of representatives called the “city council.” Coolidge was elected to the city council in his hometown – or in the town he was living in, rather – of North Hampton. He stayed on the city council for a little more than 10 years when he was elected mayor of North Hampton in 1909. He was mayor for only two years when he was elected to become a state senator.

This pattern of starting at a local level in terms of getting involved in politics and then moving up to a higher level is very common in American politics. People involved in politics often begin at the local level, getting elected to their local town or city council, and then they go for, they run for, higher offices – political positions that have more power and authority. Well, Coolidge became a state senator and he and his family moved to the capital of Massachusetts, Boston, where the state government was located (and still is for that state).

Coolidge served as a senator in his state legislature for four years before becoming lieutenant governor in 1915. “Lieutenant governor” is sort of like the vice president of a state. If you think of the governor as being the leader of the state like the president, the lieutenant governor is the person who takes over if the governor is not able to continue on, just as the vice president takes over if the president is not able to continue in office or continue serving. Well, we don’t call it the “vice governor.” We call the “lieutenant governor.”

In 1918, Coolidge was elected governor of the state of Massachusetts. It was while he was governor that Coolidge became known nationally, outside of the state of Massachusetts. One of the reasons he became known nationally is because in 1919, there was a strike by the Boston Police Department. A “strike” (strike) is when people – workers – refuse to work as a form of protest. Well, it’s of course quite a difficult situation if your police department decides it’s not going to work.

These police officers in Boston wanted to start a “labor union.” A “labor (labor) union” is an organized group of workers that is formed with the idea of protecting the rights of the workers – as well, of course, as helping them get paid more. At this time, however, in the early twentieth century, it was quite unusual for public employees to be part of labor unions. So when the police in Boston decided they wanted to form a labor union and weren’t going to work until they were allowed to do so, the situation became very dangerous.

Coolidge, as governor, decided he needed to do something, so he asked the State Guard, or the National Guard, to go into the city of Boston and be the police. The National Guard is a group of men – and nowadays, men and women – who are basically the military force for a state. Now, it’s a little confusing because the United States has a national military. However, each state also has a group of people, usually working part-time, who serve as sort of a military force for that state.

Members of the National Guard are only used in emergencies in a state in order to provide protection if there is some very dangerous situation. Here in Los Angeles, for example, when we had riots back in 1992 and the police were not able to control the city, the governor brought in the National Guard – soldiers who helped police the city for a week or so until everything “quieted down,” shall we say. Well, this is what Coolidge did. He brought in the National Guard – a group of soldiers, basically – to protect the city of Boston.

The strike ended, the police officers decided to go back to work, but Coolidge said no, you can’t come back. If you went on strike, you are not going to get your job back because, he said, “There is no right to strike against the public safety.” What Coolidge meant is that government employees, especially those involved in providing safety, did not have a right to strike. This is a controversial position. Some people agree with it, some people don’t, but certainly a lot of people liked Coolidge’s idea of not allowing the police force to go on strike.

Coolidge gained a lot of support from all over the country because of his position, and people within the Republican Party began to notice him and decided that they wanted him to become a national leader for the Republican Party. So, in 1920 they asked Coolidge to be the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party. He accepted and was elected along with the president, Warren G. Harding.

Coolidge didn’t have a very interesting time as vice president, however. He wasn’t involved very much. This is not unusual for vice presidents – or at least, traditionally it was not unusual. The vice presidency is a somewhat unusual office in American government. You don’t really have any official formal jobs other than presiding over the U.S. Senate. You are basically the leader of the Senate, which is a representative body, one of the two parts of the U.S. Congress. But officially, the vice president doesn’t do very much.

And this was exactly what Coolidge found out. He didn’t really have much to do as vice president. And remember, Coolidge was a very shy person anyway. He had what we might call a “lack of social skills.” When we say someone has a “lack (lack) of” something, we mean they don’t have something. They are missing something. In fact, Coolidge was sometimes called “Silent Cal.” “Cal” is short for “Calvin.” “Silent” means not speaking. He had this nickname of Silent Cal because he didn’t speak very much, which is quite unusual, when you think about it, for a politician.

But his wife, Grace, was the opposite of Coolidge. She was very outgoing and liked to talk to people. There’s an old expression in English, “opposites attract,” meaning that sometimes people who have very different or opposite personality characteristics are attracted to each other. This is certainly the case with me and my wife. She’s very beautiful and I’m very ugly. So we are attracted to, or at least, I was attracted to her. Not sure why she married me, to be honest. Neither do my parents. My parents didn’t think my wife should marry me. Seriously. Fortunately, she didn’t listen.

Anyway, Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace, was a very talkative person and socialized a lot in Washington D.C. when Coolidge became vice president. One of the important things about being vice president – in fact, some would say the only important thing – is that if the president dies or is unable to continue as president, you become president. This is exactly what happened in August of 1923. President Harding died suddenly of a heart attack. When the president dies, the vice president becomes president, as I just mentioned, and that’s exactly what happened.

Coolidge became president on August third, 1923. Shortly after he became president, he learned that there had been some very serious problems during the presidency of Warren G. Harding. Many of the people that Harding had appointed to positions of power in the government had in fact abused that power. When I say that Harding “appointed” people, I mean he gave jobs to people. The president appoints a lot of very important leaders within the government after he becomes president, and that’s what Harding did.

Unfortunately, some of the people appointed by Harding abused their power. “To abuse” (abuse) something means to use it in a wrong way or to use it in a harmful way. Harding believed that if he was kind to people and gave people jobs, they would be kind in return and do a good job. This unfortunately was wrong. Many of the people who worked for Harding did not do a good job. There were several scandals during Harding’s administration, during his time as president.

A “scandal” (scandal) is when someone does something either illegal, immoral, or unethical that causes people to get angry. Coolidge, then, becoming president after Harding, had to win back the trust of the American people. He had to convince people that he was going to be honest and do a good job. He succeeded. And in 1924, he was elected president. Although he won the presidency, it wasn’t a happy time for Coolidge. During the election for the presidency, Coolidge lost his son Calvin Jr. who died, sadly, of a blood infection.

After the election, Coolidge began to try to help American businesses be more successful. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is, “The chief business of the American people is business.” “Business” here has two meanings. “Business” can mean concern – what people should be worried about or what they should be involved in. There is another meaning of “business” here, which is to go out and try to make money.

So when Coolidge said, “The chief,” or most important, “business of the American people is business,” he meant that the most important thing people should be involved in and concerned about is having companies and being successful economically. Coolidge then tried to make America more friendly, if you will, to businesses.

One of the things he did was to lower both the income tax and the estate tax. An “income (income) tax” is money that you have to pay based upon how much money you make at your job. An “estate tax” is tax you have to pay when you die. Although of course you don’t pay it, because you’re dead, but your family or the people who are what we would call your “heirs” (heirs) pay the tax.

Coolidge lowered the income and estate taxes. He believed that if businesses paid less in taxes, they would take their money and open up new businesses or expand their businesses, which would create more jobs, and Coolidge wasn’t wrong about that. The 1920s were very successful economically in the United States, at least until the end of the 1920s.

Coolidge believed basically that government should not get involved too much in the business community or in trying to control businesses. He had what we might call a “hands-off approach.” “To be hands-off” means not to interfere with something. Coolidge didn’t believe the government should pass a bunch of new laws just so it could keep itself busy. In fact, he vetoed many of the laws that were sent to him. “To veto” (veto) means to say no to a proposal or a suggestion or, in this case, a proposed law.

In the American constitutional system, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives propose bills – propose new laws – but the president has to approve them. If the president doesn’t approve them, he or she “vetoes” them – says no. Now, the Congress – the Senate and the House – can what we would call “override” the veto. In other words, vote again to pass the law, but that is not very common and requires a lot more votes than simply to pass a bill in the first place.

Coolidge was also not very interested in international affairs. He believed that the United States should not get involved in the business of other countries. He did not, for example, support the U.S. joining the League of Nations, which was an international organization started after World War I, proposed in part by a previous president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

Coolidge did not run for president again in 1928, although if he had, he may well have won. He instead retired and returned to Massachusetts where he continued writing articles for newspapers and magazines, as well as his own life story, his autobiography, which he published in 1929. When Coolidge left office, many people believed that he had been responsible for the great prosperity in the United States during the 1920s. “Prosperity” means economic success or wealth.

However, 1929 – the year Coolidge left office – was one of the worst years economically both in the United States and, indeed, in the world. That was the beginning of a very bad economic period called the “Great Depression.” Coolidge died a few years later, in January of 1933, of a heart attack. He was only 60 years old, although at that time, dying at the age of 60 wasn’t that unusual. Overall, I think people have a good impression of Coolidge and his job during his time as president of the U.S.

Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us.

Our first question comes from Tchau (Tchau) in Brazil. The question has to do with three words – “further,” “more,” and “furthermore.” Let’s start with “further” (further).

“Further” is often used at the beginning of a sentence or a clause to mean “in addition.” So for example, I’m talking about something, and then I want to say something else. I want to add some information. I could begin the sentence with the word “further.” “Further” can also mean “to a greater extent or degree.” For example, “I don’t want our argument to go any further,” meaning I don’t want it to continue. You could also talk about doing “further research,” meaning more research – to a greater extent or degree.

There’s another somewhat similar-sounding word in English, “farther” (farther). Many people use “further” and “farther” interchangeably – one for the other – when talking about this idea of “to a greater degree or extent.” However, some will tell you that “farther” is really the word you would use with physical distance. “We have to travel ten miles farther in order to arrive at the beach.” So, some say when you’re talking about physical distance, you should say “farther,” and when you’re talking about to a greater extent or degree in a more metaphorical sense, you would use “further.” But I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

“More” (more) just means greater in amount or number or size. “Ten is more than five.” “I have more rice than I have corn.” “Furthermore” is a combination of “further” and “more” and means “in addition.” “Further” and “furthermore” mean the same when we’re using it in the sense of “in addition.” Instead of saying “further” at the beginning of a sentence when you want to add information, you can say “furthermore.” “Furthermore” is a little more formal, and you probably would read that more often than hear it, but people do use it as well.

Guillermo (Guillermo) in Spain wants to know the meanings of two words, “resilience” and “resistance.” Let me do the second word first. “Resistance” (resistance) comes from the verb “to resist,” which means to make an effort to stop someone or something. It can also mean to fight against someone or something or to prevent something from having an effect. For example, I’m trying to make some changes to our work policies, but I’m getting some resistance from the employees. The employees are trying to prevent it or stop it. They don’t want these new changes to take place.

“Resilience” (resilience) is a little different. “Resilience” is when you are put in a difficult situation and you don’t give up. “Resilience” is the ability to remain strong, healthy, or successful after having a difficult experience. We sometimes talk about children, for example, who grow up in a family with a lot of difficulties, perhaps violence, as being “resilient” – remaining strong despite those difficulties. Sadly, of course, that isn’t always the case with children.

Guillermo also had a quick pronunciation question. He wanted to know the difference in pronunciation between the words “iPod” and “iPad.” Both of these are products made by Apple, the computer company. The first one is pronounced “iPod,” with an “o.” The second one is pronounced “iPad,” with an “a.”

Our final question is from Naoura (Naoura) in the country of Chad in Africa. The question has to do with a very common expression: “You can say that again.” “You can say that again” means I agree with you completely. It is sometimes used when someone is complaining about something or perhaps commenting about some negative aspect of a situation.

If, for example, your neighbors are making a lot of noise and your wife says to you, “I wish they would just shut up next door,” you might agree with her by saying, “You can say that again.” You are agreeing with her completely – as of course you should always do with your wife.

If you have a question or comment, you can email us. Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

taciturn – describing a person who does not show emotions often and who speaks very little, not participating often in conversation

* People often think that Kofi is taciturn when they first meet him, but soon they realized that he is just shy.

to strike – to refuse to work as a form of protest; to stop work to show one’s disagreement with or displeasure toward employers

* After requesting a raise three years in a row and being denied, the bus drivers went on strike to force the city to consider increasing their pay.

labor union – an organized group of workers formed to protect those workers’ rights, negotiating with bosses and owners as a group

* Labor unions have been instrumental in getting fair pay and safer working conditions for workers all around the country.

lack of – absent of; being without something that is needed or expected

* Due to a lack of good schools in their neighborhood, the Schmidts moved to a different area when they had children.

to appoint – to give someone a job, usually in government, without going through a hiring process

* The judge who was recently appointed to the Supreme Court has an impressive resume with over 30 years of experience.

to abuse power – to use the influence and authority of one’s job or position in a way that is not proper or that is beyond what is expected or allowed

* There are many benefits that come with being CEO, but Radha is careful not to abuse the power she has been given.

scandal – an act or event that is seen as illegal or morally wrong and causes the public to be angry or upset

* It was the scandal of the year when news reports began appearing about the wealthiest man in the state losing most of his money betting on horse races.

income tax – the amount of money a person pays to the government each year that is a percentage of the amount of money he or she earned that year

* In the current system, the more money a person makes, the more income tax he or she pays each year.

estate tax – the amount of money paid to the government when a person dies, a percentage of the amount of wealth that person had at the time of death

* Rich people often consult investment specialists to avoid paying high estate taxes when they die, so that that their children will inherit more money.

hands-off – not touching or interfering with something, allowing events to occur without interruption or outside influence

* Francesca tried to be a hands-off parent and allow her children to learn to do things for themselves.

to veto – to reject a proposal; to say “no” to a proposed law

* When Alexi suggested having pizza for dinner, Masha immediately vetoed the idea since they’d had pizza the previous night.

prosperity – wealth and success; having a lot of money and things of high value

* Since starting her new job, Sadia was enjoying a period of prosperity, so she decided to buy herself a new car and move to a larger apartment.

further – in addition; to a greater degree or extent; to or at a more distant place or time

* Do we need to discuss this further or are we in agreement?

furthermore – in addition to what has been said; moreover

* Leave right now. And furthermore, never come back again!

more – a greater amount, number, or size; greater or additional amount

* Will you have more dessert and coffee, or are you full?

resilience – the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad or damaging happens; the ability of something to return to its original shape or condition after it has been pulled, stretched, or pressed

* Children who have been through tragedy often show a lot of resilience.

resistance – an effort made to stop or to fight against someone or something, usually to stop something from happening

* We’re seeing a lot of resistance to our new hand-washing policy.

You can say that again – “I agree with you completely,” used in spoken English to show one’s strong agreement

* A: We’re very lucky that our house wasn’t damaged in the storm when so many others were.

B: You can say that again!

What Insiders Know
The Coolidge Dam

A “dam” is a structure that prevents water from flowing or moving as it normally would. It holds water back and keeps it in a “reservoir” (large area to collect water) ready for use. Dams are often created to provide water or to “generate” (create) electricity for a community.

Between 1924 and 1928, the Coolidge Dam was built in Globe, Arizona in the southeast part of the state. It was named after President Calvin Coolidge. Since Arizona is a “desert” and has very dry weather and little rain each year, the dam was needed to bring water for “irrigation” (watering of crops (plants grown for food)), as well as for energy. It brought water to about 100,000 acres in the area.

The Coolidge Dam captured water from the San Carlos Lake located on the San Carlos Apache “Indian Reservation” (land set aside to be used by Native Americans). When the dam was “proposed” (planned), the Apache “tribe” (group of Native Americans) “opposed” (did not support) it. The tribe believed that their “territorial” (land) rights were being “violated” (for laws or rules not to be followed). The “site” (place where something is built) was also former “burial grounds” (place where the dead are put under ground). Moving the dead, the tribe said, would be a form of “desecration” (violating something holy). Eventually, a “compromise” (agreement where each side gets less then it wanted) was reached between the “federal” (national) government and the Apache tribe. A concrete “slab” (thick, flat piece of solid material, such as stone) was placed over the burial grounds to protect what was beneath it.

The Coolidge Dam brought water and generated electricity for many years, but in 1983, it was seriously damaged in a “flood” (when water is so high that goes onto land). The dam was not longer able to be used and was never repaired.