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The Wit and Wisdom of Will Rogers


This week marked the 83rd anniversary of the death of one of America’s most practical, down-to-earth, common-sense “philosophers,” Will Rogers. Born on November 4, 1879, in Cherokee Territory (what is now Oklahoma), Rogers was a Cherokee Indian with a charming wit with touch of biting sarcasm delivered with a smile that melted even those who were the brunt of his jokes. Purportedly a Democrat in politics, he was decidedly an equal-opportunity offender with his humor, dishing it out to both parties alike. The people loved him for his common-sense approach to life and were devastated when he died, along with pilot Wiley Post, in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska, on August 15, 1935.

Here are some of his one-liners that are among my personal favorites. They are as true today as they were when he quipped them.

  1. “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”

  2. “There is nothing so stupid as the educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in.”

  3. “A fool and his money are soon elected.”

  4. “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

  5. “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

  6. “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”


Rogers didn’t always sling around such country wisdom; he actually got his start in vaudeville as a trick rope artist. That morphed into a routine in which he mixed his rope tricks with jokes and home-spun humor. And that led to his increasingly more frequent political comments. He wrote a weekly newspaper column that appeared in about 400 newspapers across the country. He also had a radio broadcast and appeared in more than 70 movies, including State Fair (1933). He wrote six books and was a frequent guest at the White House.

Perhaps my favorite Rogers quotation is this one: “We’re all ignorant–just on different subjects.”

Think about it!

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

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