William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (November 4, 1879 - August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor. Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). He traveled around the world three times and made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 "talkies). He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was also the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time. Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in Alaska.
Will, you were quite knowledgeable about politics. I’d like to get your thoughts on the current state of political affairs. What’s the reason the losing party in an election always has hope?
Elections are a good deal like marriages. There's no accounting for anyone's taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it's the same with public officials.
How would you define a conservative?
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)
How would you define a liberal?
Everyone is ignorant, only in different subjects. (From Soup to Nuts The New York Times; 31 August 1924)
And, in laymen’s terms?
The Lord so constituted everybody that no matter what color you are, you require the same amount of nourishment.
And, in professional terms?
I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. (Will Rogers, Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom; 1935)
The rise of independents?
Broad-minded is just another way of saying a fellow is too lazy to form an opinion.
Again, for the layman, please?
Civilization has taught us to eat with a fork, but even now if nobody is around we use our fingers.
By the way, what’s your personal take?
This would be a great time in the world for some man to come along that knew something. (As quoted in Will Roger's Daily Telegrams: The Hoover Years, 1929-1931;1978)
Your thoughts on our current Congress?
Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House? (As quoted in Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics as If Freedom Mattered (1986) by John Galt, p. 235)
How would you define the one-percenters?
Ten men in our country couldbuy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat. (As quoted in The Quotable Will Rogers (2006) by Joseph H. Carter)
And what advice would you give to the extremists?
No man is great if he thinks he is.
Amidst all this extremism, what keeps you going?
I never met a man I didn't like.
Every administration wants “change.” How would you define change?
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
And why are some so resistant to change?
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.
And why do you side with the people who like change?
We are always yapping about the 'Good Old Days' and how we look back and enjoy it, but I tell you there is a lot of hooey to it. There is a whole lot of all our past lives that wasn't so hot.
Amidst all this change, what keeps you grounded?
I am just an old country boy in a big town trying to get along. I have been eating pretty regular and the reason I have been is because I have stayed an old country boy.
Why the media has more political commentators than are remotely necessary to make an educated decision?
If you ever injected truth into politics you'd have no politics.
Any advice for these commentators?
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
What would you really see the media learn?
Rumor travels faster, but it don't stay put as long as truth. (The Illiterate Digest; 1924)
Can you explain why Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live are/were the most popular political shows in America?
There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. (As quoted in Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 524)
And why is there no trick to it?
I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. (Will Rogers, Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom; 1935)
So, we’ve been in a financial malaise for a while. What’s the key to the recovery?
Things will get better-despite our efforts to improve them.
In other words?
If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?
Why Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns?
The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. (The Illiterate Digest; 1924)
And your take on the health care laws?
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)
What about campaign finance reform?
Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with. (Syndicated newspaper article; 28 June 1931)
How do you feel about America’s use of drones?
You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way. (The New York Times; 23 December 1929)
Why Brexit passed?
I don't care how poor and inefficient a little country is; they like to run their own business. I know men that would make my wife a better husband than I am, but, darn it, I'm not going to give her to 'em.
And what do you think of the lack of privacy on the Internet?
Try to live your life so that you wouldn't be afraid to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
Trump and his Twitter accounts?
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)
So how did you become a famous movie star or famous on Twitter?
America is a land of opportunity and don't ever forget it.
And what was your key to movie success?
I'm not a real movie star. I still got the same wife I started out with nearly 28 years ago.
What was your take on this year’s awards shows?
The movies are the only business where you can go out front and applaud yourself. (As quoted in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1963) by Daniel Joseph Boorstein)
How would you advise those of us who have an AARP card?
If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned.
Any other advice?
Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.
How about some advice for the younger generation?
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.)
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. (The New York Times; 29 April 1930)