There are few people, living or dead, I revere as much as Will Rogers. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when a recent category on “Jeopardy” was, “The Quotable Will Rogers.”
Well, much to my disappointment, the young contestants on the show avoided the category until the very end of the round, and more to my horror, when they finally got to the category, none of them knew such Will Rogers quotes as “I’ve never met a man I didn’t like,” and “All I know is what I read in the papers.”
It’s incredibly sad that so few Americans know Rogers and his wisdom. Then again, modern hyper-sensitive liberals and sanctimonious conservatives would most likely find much more offense in his words than wisdom.
For instance, imagine how Christian conservatives would react if a late night talk show host were to say, “The church is in politics more than the politicians.”
Will Rogers said that in 1929.
Or imagine if a politician or celebrity was absolutely irate about what someone said about them, and the person who offended the politician or celebrity retorted, “Nothing makes a man, or a body of men, as angry as the truth.”
Or what if a senator or congressman were to say of the president, “An emperor is bigger than a president; he is what a president would be if he didn’t have any Congress or Senate to see that he does nothing.”
The thing is, Will Rogers was immensely popular in his time, mostly because of the inimitable way he presented truth with lots of humor and very little animus.
Of course, it has to be said that Rogers’ audience, namely my parents and grandparents, were adults, who knew how to take a joke (Keyword there being “adult”). Unlike we sniveling Baby Boomers and later generations, who crumble under the slightest criticism and insist on being spoon-fed what we want to hear.
Still, in all, it’s very sad that fewer and fewer folks know about Will Rogers, because his thoughts and ideas are as pertinent today as they were when he said and wrote them. Consider the following:
“There’s as much money in the country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it.”
(No doubt he’d be branded a socialist.)
“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth.”
(But rumor gets more clicks on the internet.)
“I can’t see the advantage of having one of your own party in as president. I would rather be able to criticize a man than to have to apologize for him.”
(Apologize? In modern politics? What’s that?)
Or one of my favorite Will Rogers quotes of all time:
“Money was appropriated in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Herbert Hoover was an engineer. He knew water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will find the driest little spot. So money was appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. But he didn’t 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.”
(Again, Will, how dare you spout such socialistic propaganda?)
The funny thing is, there’s nothing in the world people say they want more than truth, but there’s nothing in the world we’ll so adamantly resist than truth.
As such, if Will Rogers were around today, conservatives would most likely revile him as a socialist and liberals would equally revile him as insensitive. Which is to say as much as my parents universally loved him, my generation and those who came after would probably universally hate him, simply because he was more interested in telling the truth than he was in telling folks what they wanted to hear.
More is the pity…
Craig Carter is an Ontario resident and can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.