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Most Americans couldn’t tell you much about Calvin Coolidge. The 30th president of the US, Connecticut lawyer Calvin Coolidge was the savior of the middle and working classes at a time of economic and social uncertainty. Silent Cal earned his reputation as a quiet man of decisive action and steadfast morals both as a local legislator and as the head of the US Executive Branch by acting swiftly but within the confines of his power. Coolidge is frequently attributed the following quotation about perseverance:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.

Let’s break down this quote a little to dissect what he means.

Unsuccessful men with talent: Sheer raw talent will only get a person so far in life. Without refinement or development, that talent will likely never see the light of day. That talent needs to be honed, fed, and exercised with patience over a long period of time. It needs prolonged periods of rigorous testing and stretching, and it needs time and real-life experience to be worth anything.

Unrewarded Genius: Much the same way that talent isn’t a sure bet on success, genius itself may prove worthless and fruitless if not paired with perseverance. Every one of us can think of a friend from grade school who was quick on their feet, deeply curious, and wily as a coyote, but failed to apply their intellect to anything productive over a period of time. As such, despite lots of horsepower, their genius fails to propel them towards any greater end.

Educated Derelicts: We can find evidence of this everywhere we turn nowadays. From the political sphere to the business world, the years in school and the number of degrees do not guarantee success or even a common sense. Colleges and other institutions of higher learning will offer degrees to nearly anyone who can get Cs for years, regardless of their morals or real-world aptitude.

Press On: Calvin Coolidge wraps up his quotation with a slogan by which all Americans can plot out their lives. Coolidge himself saw some rough patches in social stability, economic prospects, and personal tragedy — in fact, he only came to the office of the president because Warren G. Harding died very suddenly and Coolidge was his VP. No matter a person’s level of intelligence, store of talent, or years spent at institutes of higher learning, every person has the capacity to see a project through to the end and weather every circumstance under the sun.