Will Rogers Remembered
80 years ago today, Will Rogers died near Point Barrow Alaska.
Ask someone if they’ve ever heard of Will Rogers and they will probably fire off his most famous quote, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” But I believe that there are very few people alive today who truly understand that what he did that was so important.
Will Rogers was a cowboy, a humorist, a political commentator, an entertainer, an unofficial diplomat, a syndicated newspaper columnist and the number one box office draw in the years before his death. His skill with twirling a lariat opened the door to the world of entertainment. One day during his act, his rope trick failed and he made some off hand comment. The audience laughed at that comment, whatever it was, so he began talking in his act. Before long, he was performing in the famous Zigfield Follies. His fame escalated from there.
For me, one of the things that made Will Rogers such an important figure, was that he spoke to the common person. I can still hear the recordings of FDR saying, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” And he said it in that lofty tone that orators of the day used. Will never spoke in lofty tones. He used common words and talked about things that mattered to most Americans. During the great depression, he made several radio speeches that struck a chord with so many listeners. And his humor was never mean spirited.
Here’s one of his more famous speeches:
How I met Will Rogers
Of course I never actually met Will Rogers, because he died 29 years before I was born. I grew up in a town on the California coast called Pacific Palisades where Will had a small ranch and a home for when he was making movies in Hollywood. That ranch became a state park and I remember going there many times as a child. I was amazed by the movies of his rope tricks and I knew I had to grow up to be like him.
Through the years since, I have studied his life and his work. I’ve read books and watched many of his movies. I’ve collected pictures, and memorabilia.
We Lost A Lot
When we lost Will Rogers, we lost an icon. We lost a little bit of hope during very turbulent and uncertain times. We lost the one person who represented this country and its ideals better than anyone else. As I read the writings of Will Rogers, it’s easy for me to understand why americans everywhere turned to his columns for a bit of humor during a depressing era. When I watch his movies, I realize why he was the number one box office draw. He showed americans and the world what it meant to be an american. He not only lived the american dream, but he embodied it. And he didn’t do it on the back of cheap labor like the great barons of the 19th century. He was the cheap labor. Even when he made so much money, he was never more than the cowboy he started out to be. He didn’t have much of an education, but he was not uneducated.
Today, the 80th anniversary of his death, I will remember Will Rogers and everything he means to me.