Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, Will Rogers!

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of my most revered heroes - cowboy, writer, actor, commentator, wit, and all-around nice guy Will Rogers.

William Penn Adair ("Will") Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in the teeming megalopolis of Oologah, in what was then called "Indian Territory" - today, we call it Oklahoma. He was part Cherokee and got the nickname "the Cherokee Kid." He worked for a time as a roper in the circus, and moved on to vaudeville, where he was a big success. His original vaudeville act was based on rope tricks interspersed with jokes and commentary on the daily news. His act was so popular that he went on to write a daily newspaper column, "Will Rogers Says," which was read by about 40 million people a day. He acted in more than 70 movies, and died in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935, when he was 55 years old.

Will Rogers was noted for his topical political commentary and gentle jokes about all sorts of topics. Many of his best comments are as applicable today as they were in the 1930's, and he's still widely quoted by people on all sides of political arguments. He could have been talking about the election we just suffered through yesterday when he said ...

"Every guy just looks in his own pocket and then votes. And the funny part of it is that it's the last year of an administration that counts. [A president] can have three bad ones and then wind up with everybody having money in the fourth, and the incumbent will win so far he needn't even stay up to hear the returns. Conditions win elections, not speeches." (Boy, he called that one right!)

"Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago." (What more can I say?)

"Thanksgiving Day! In the days of our founders, they were willing to give thanks for mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. … Those old boys in the Fall of the year, if they could gather a few pumpkins, potatoes and some corn for the Winter, they was in a thanking mood. But if we can't gather in a new car, a new radio, a new tuxedo and some Government relief, we feel like the world is agin' us." (Yep.)

"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke." (What do you suppose Will would have made of last week's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear?")

"If stupidity got us in this mess, why can't it get us out?" (I have an idea that the Republicans are getting ready to find out. After all, it's a lot easier to shout slogans and make grand promises than it is to actually come up with rational policies of governance.)

"A senator got up today in Congress and called his fellow senators sons of wild jackasses. Now, if you think the senators were hot, imagine how the jackasses must feel." (Name-calling in politics actually isn't anything new, is it?)

One of Mr Rogers' most famous quotes is actually a bit of a misquote. He is often quoted as having said, "I never met a man I didn't like." But what he actually said was a little bit different...it was part of a longer comment, and it was about - of all people - Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Here's the full quote in context:

"I bet you if I had met him (Trotsky) and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn't like. When you meet people, no matter what opinion you might have formed about them beforehand, why, after you meet them and see their angle and their personality, why, you can see a lot of good in all of them."

How can you not admire a man like that ... and wish we had more like him today? Especially in Congress.

Join me in raising a glass to my hero Will Rogers - a genuine American. We need more like him.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo


3 comments:

KathyA said...

Cheers!

Mike said...

I'll drink to that. Several times.

Wv: carse - What you have when a car dies.

Bandit said...

Cheers to Will! What great insight he had and as you stated, is still fresh today.


I think ha also said that he was not a member of any organized political party. He was a democrat. And that statement, of course, can go both ways.