I don’t know why the words Teapot Dome always stuck in my head from American history. Teapot Dome is a geographical feature in Wyoming. It was the scene of shady activity during the presidency of Warren G. Harding. Harding wasn’t personally involved in that scandal or the others that tainted his presidency. He confided to friends about how much it hurt him to have his friends betray him.
In 1923 Harding set out across the country with the ultimate goal of visiting Alaska Territory. He wanted the trip to be a “voyage of understanding.” His health really wasn’t up to it. He had not fully regained his strength after having the flu that winter. Harding made 85 speeches and did make it all the way to Alaska.
The president became ill after visiting Alaska. His doctor insisted that he rest, so Harding and those traveling with him stopped in San Francisco. There, on August 2, 1923, President Harding died in his hotel room while his wife was reading to him.
Vice President Calvin Coolidge was on vacation at his father’s house in their hometown of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Early in the morning of August 3, the vice president’s father received the news that Harding had died. He awoke his son to tell him the news. Before leaving his bedroom, Calvin Coolidge knelt with his wife and asked God to bless the American people and to give him the power to serve them.
John Coolidge had no phone, so his son walked to a local store to make a call to Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes encouraged Coolidge to take the oath of office immediately. Coolidge went back home and newspaper reporters began to gather there. His father was a justice of the peace; so at 2:30 a.m., he administered the oath of office to his son in the family parlor by the light of kerosene lamps.
After taking the oath of office, President Coolidge went back to bed. It was a wise move. He had a monumental task ahead of him, but it wasn’t more important than the task you have before you today — to love and educate and nurture your children. Thank you.
Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength.
These words, which I am commanding you today,
shall be on your heart.
And you shall repeat them diligently
to your sons and speak of them
when you sit in your house,
when you walk on the road,
when you lie down, and when you get up.