Published on October 26, 2023 by Diamond Nunnally  
Steve Forbes Lecture 2023

Called to the presidency in 1923 after Warren G. Harding's death, Calvin Coolidge sought to "reduce the deficit, cut taxes and maintain tariff stability in the United States. He succeeded, and according to many experts, including former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, touts his presidency as one of the most successful ever. 

 Forbes used Coolidge’s stint in the White House as the primary example for his talk "A Model for Leadership," held at Samford University on Tuesday, Oct. 24. in A. Hamilton Reid Chapel for the Howard College of Arts and Sciences Colloquium on American Citizenship lecture. The event was hosted in partnership with the Birmingham Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society. 

Before his speech, Forbes received the key to the city of Mountain Brook from Mayor Stewart H. Welch, III.  

After receiving this honor, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine thanked the mayor. He also thanked organizers for inviting him to lecture about leadership to celebrate Coolidge's 100th anniversary of his presidency. He began by stating the importance of places like Samford, saying "education can't be taken for granted" and that "knowledge is power."  

"Knowledge is wealth, not physical things," Forbes said. "It is the human mind. And if we don't forget that, we will move forward and get through what's happening now." 

Forbes criticized both major political parties for not rising to the occasion and providing a sense of direction and policies that he says are needed to move this country forward. He cited instances like the Republicans' wavering selection process for the new Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Joe Biden's perceived inaction in Ukraine by withholding military support, which he argued has given Vladimir Putin and other countries the opinion that the United States is in a state of decline. 

"We talk about budget deficits, but the real deficit is leadership," Forbes said.  

Forbes looks to Coolidge as a model for the kind of leadership he says could fill many gaps nationally. He argued that earning his constituents' trust, listening to voters, doing what was right despite the consequences and treating his opponents with civility made Coolidge a successful leader. Forbes praised Coolidge’s ability to restore normalcy when the country was in peril after World War I by inspiring Americans to look toward the future instead of fearing the present. Television, the instant camera and the traffic signal, to name a few, were all invented during his presidency. 

"Can America be the Roaring 20s again? The answer is yes," Forbes said. “When we look at the leadership deficit today, you will read that Coolidge's leadership and sense of purpose are something we need. And in a free society, there is no reason why we can't do it again." 


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.