Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quote of the Day (Will Rogers, on Time)

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”—Will Rogers, The New York Times, April 29, 1930

Time ran out for Will Rogers unexpectedly 80 years ago today, when he crashed in a small plane, along with pilot Wiley Post, near Point Barrow, Alaska. The body of the beloved 55-year-old comedian—the best-known American at the time besides President Franklin Roosevelt—was flown back to Los Angeles to be buried, before his remains were transferred, nine years later, to a memorial in Claremore, Okla.

Nobody has ever managed to take the place in American culture once occupied by Rogers. He might have started out as a cowboy, but before long his lassoing skills had earned him a place on the vaudeville circuit. That act came to include his humorous comments on life, American society and government. As early as 1918, he appeared in a silent movie—and he would make another 70 films, even being voted the most popular actor in Hollywood a year before his untimely death.

Even that wasn’t the extent of his fame. In the 1920s, the heyday of big-city newspapers gave rise to the syndicated column, and Rogers would end up writing 4,000 of them, collected in six books. Moreover, as Scott Simon noted in a piece on National Public Radio, he took advantage of a new medium—radio—to reach even more people. 

Who is like him today? Who has reached as many people, in so many different communication forms? 

Really, nobody. That occurred, in no small part, because listeners and readers sensed in him a comedian who, for all his sharp humor, was fundamentally without bile or party axes to grind, someone whose intelligence was fully matched by a generous heart. 

If he didn’t believe 100% in his most famous saying, he came closer to it than anyone else has since: "When I die, my epitaph or whatever you call those signs on gravestones is going to read: 'I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn't like.' "

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