Will Rogers was a part-Cherokee American who grew up in Indian Territory and began his career in vaudeville doing rope tricks; he went on to become one of the most popular entertainers and writers of his day.
He started writing news commentary while performing in the Ziegfeld Follies. Because the Follies was so successful that it attracted repeat audiences, Rogers needed to develop a part of his act that could be updated. Rogers was a huge consumer of current news, and his wife, Betty, suggested he weave into his roping act what he read each day in the news. It worked.
In 1922 he was offered a weekly newspaper column that became a daily feature in 1926 when he was bound for Europe. Adolph Ochs at The New York Times suggested Rogers send back daily telegrams of what he observed. From 1926 on, Rogers filed daily stories generally under the heading, “Will Rogers Says.” The column was eventually syndicated in over 600 newspapers. He also was given a radio program, and his commentary was so influential that he became a sought after guest at major political events because Americans wanted to know what Will Rogers said on a myriad of topics.
Glancing through some of his commentary, it is very clear that Rogers would have been quite at home on Twitter and his comments still work today:
His perceptions on the economy are applicable today:
- No nation in the history of the world was ever sitting as pretty. If we want
anything, all we have to do is go and buy it on credit.
- So that leaves us without any economic problems whatsoever, except perhaps someday to have to pay for them.
- We’ll show the world we are prosperous, even if we have to go broke to do it.
- We will never get anywhere with our finances till we pass a law saying that
every time we appropriate something we got to pass another bill along with it stating where the money is coming from.
- The average life of the movie is till it reaches the critic.
- The average life of the movie hero is till he is found out.
- They may call me a “rube” and a “hick,” but I’d a lot rather be the man who
bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.
On Charles Lindbergh’s precedent-setting nonstop flight to Europe in 1927:
Of all the things that Lindbergh’s great feat demonstrated, the greatest was to show us that a person could still get the entire front page without murdering anybody.”
On growing older:
- Eventually you reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
- The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting for.
- Some people try to turn back to odometers. Not me, I want people to know “why” I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.
- When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think Algebra.
- I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
- One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.
- Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.
- One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.
You must judge a man’s greatness by how much he will be missed.