Monday, August 28, 2023

The Wit and Wisdom of Will Rogers

William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879.   He was a Native American vaudeville performer, actor and humorous social commentator.  Born a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in what is now part of Oklahoma, Will was known as "Oklahoma's Favorite Son."  During his career, he made 71 films, 50 of which were silent films. 

 Will sometime before 1900

In December of 1922, Will launched a national syndicated newspaper column.  It was known as "The Weekly Column" in the Sunday edition of The New York Times.  During his lifetime, he wrote over 4,000 columns on a variety of subjects.

On August 25, 1935, Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post died when their small plane crashed in northern Alaska.  Will was 55 at the time of his passing.

A selection of  Will Rogers quotes.

I never met a man I didn't like.  

  • "One of his most famous and most quoted remarks. First printed in the Boston Globe, June 16, 1930, after he had attended Tremont Temple Baptist Church, where Dr. James W. Brougher was minister. He asked Will to say a few words after the sermon. The papers were quick to pick up the remark, and it stayed with him the rest of his life. He also said it on various other occasions" ~  The Will Rogers Book , by Paula McSpadden Love, niece of Will Rogers and curator of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.
    • Variant: I joked about every prominent man in my lifetime, but I never met one I didn't like.
    • John D. [Rockefeller] sure carried out my old saying, "I never met a man I didn't like." Nationally syndicated column number 219, Rogers Gets Six Shiny Dimes From Oil King (1927). 

When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like." I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.

- Will Rogers, 1930, from The Will Rogers Book , by Paula McSpadden Love

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

Daily Telegram #1172, Will Rogers Sees No Value In All The Time We Save (28 April 1930) 

    • The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.
      • As quoted in The New Speaker's Treasury of Wit and Wisdom (1958) by Herbert Victor Prochnow, p. 190


    When the Judgment Day comes civilization will have an alibi, "I never took a human life, I only sold the fellow the gun to take it with."

    Daily Telegram #926, A General Digging Out Of Old War Contracts (15 July 1929)

    You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.

    • Daily Telegram #1063, Will Rogers Has An Idea About Disarmament Plans (22 December 1929)

    • I am a peace man. I haven't got any use for wars and there is no more humor in 'em than there is reason for 'em.
      • Daily Telegram (4 December 1931), as quoted in Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams (1979), p. 104; also in Will Rogers Speaks: Over 1,000 Timeless Quotations for Public Speakers (1995) edited by Bryan B. Sterling and ‎Frances N. Sterling, p. 304


     doubt if a charging elephant, or a rhino, is as determined, or hard to check, as a socially ambitious mother.
    • Daily Telegram #1808, Mr. Rogers' Heart Goes Out To Our Envoy To St. James's (10 May 1932) in The New York Times, 11 May, 1932 

    You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.

    • Nationally syndicated column number 90, From Nuts To The Soup (31 August 1924); published in The New York Times 

    • We all can't be heroes, for someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
      • As quoted in The Complete Speaker's Index to Selected Stories for Every Occasion (1967) by Jacob Morton Braude, p. 16
      • Variant: We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
        • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 240

    • Personally, I have always felt the best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what is the matter — he's got to just know.
      • As quoted in Ether and me; or "Just relax." (1973)\

    • An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.
      • As quoted in You Must Remember This (1975) by Walter Wagner, p. 175

    • An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.
      • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 258

    • We are here just for a spell and then pass on. So get a few laughs and do the best you can. Live your life so that whenever you lose it, you are ahead.
      • Inscribed on the Will Rogers Memorial Building in Claremore, Oklahoma.


    Will Rogers was a lifelong Democrat, but avoided partisanship.

    • I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.
      • 'Rogers was a lifelong Democrat but he studiously avoided partisanship. He contributed to the Democratic campaign funds, but at the same time he frequently appeared on benefit programs to raise money for the Republican treasury. Republican leaders sought his counsel in their campaigns as often as did the Democrats."  ~ P. J. O'Brien, From Will Rogers Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom
      • Variants: I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat.
        I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.

    • This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.
      • Daily Telegram #1948, Will Rogers Favors Closing the Campaign Right Now and Letting The Boys Go Fishing (1 November 1932) 

    • You've got to be optimist to be a Democrat, and you've got to be a humorist to stay one.
      • Good Gulf radio show (24 June 1934)

    • That's one thing about Republican Presidents. They never went in much for plans. They only had one plan. It says "Boys, my head is turned. Just get it while you can."
      • radio broadcast (21 April 1935)

    This election was lost four and five and six years ago not this year. They dident [sic] start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he dident know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow's hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.
    • Nationally syndicated column number 518, And Here's How It All Happened (1932), as published in the Tulsa Daily World, 5 December 1932.

    • Communism is like prohibition, it's a good idea but it won't work.
         From The Autobiography of Will Rogers {1949], edited by Donald Day

    - Joanne

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