Will’s eternal influence

Will’s eternal influence

I don’t believe I have ever mentioned on this blog that the other moniker for Old Route 66 the Mother Road is the Will Rogers Memorial Highway.

You know you’ve earned a permanent place in the heart and soul of the nation when the Congress of the United States adjourns in your honor on the day they bury you.  When the President himself states “A smile has left the face of America” upon hearing the news of your death you know that your life really mattered.  When people quote you regularly four score years after your time on this rock spinning in space came to an abrupt end, you know your body of work endures.  Frequent readers have probably noticed I quote Will quite often because much of what he said all those years ago is true still today.


Immortality is best achieved by carving out a space in the hearts and souls of your fellow beings.  Will Rogers earned a measure of everlasting relevance simply by observing the world around him, reporting the facts and connecting on a personal level with ordinary people.  He delivered his message using easily understood terminology laced with down to earth common sense.  His roping cowboy shtick helped get him noticed but how he connected with a national audience was by articulating the issues pertinent to the common folk.  What’s more is that he did it without being profane.  The political observer/commentator culture he pioneered owes its success to him as do those who have ridden it since and are riding it today.  True then as now, politicians and Congress bore the brunt of his criticism and were the butt of a lot of his jokes, but it was usually considered an honor to be joked about by Will.  The more things change the more they stay the same.  I often wonder what it would have been like had the Internet been available in the 1930s.

Will working on his weekly column.

Will working on his weekly column.

On this day eighty years ago the nation learned the awful news of the death of Will Rogers and his aviator companion Wiley Post in a plane crash near Pt. Barrow, Alaska.  The Will Rogers Memorial in his hometown of Claremore will be commemorating his life today.

Last photo taken of Will Rogers. (Photo hanging in the Will Rogers Room of Oklahoma Memorial Union, University of Oklahoma, Norman)

Last photo taken of Will Rogers. (Photo hanging in the Will Rogers Room of Oklahoma Memorial Union, University of Oklahoma, Norman)

 The appeal of Will Rogers goes far and beyond his life as a cowboy, stand up comedian, movie actor/director and pioneer aviator.  During the course of his lifetime he traveled all over the world, made and lost millions of dollars and became a fixture in the life of the American public.  What set him apart though was his willingness to use his own time, money and celebrity to promote his country at home and abroad.  Indeed, as a private goodwill ambassador for America, Will established himself as a bonafide Citizen of the World.  For me and my fellow alumni of Will Rogers High School, this ideal is embodied in the words of Alma Mater:  

“Thy name shall live in the deeds thy children do.” 


All these years later, Will Rogers is remembered for his common sense political commentary, entertaining persona and above all, his humanity.  As Will himself once said, “What constitutes a life well spent?  The love and admiration from your fellow men is all that anyone can ask.”  Will’s life was certainly one which was well spent.  Believe me when I say that Will’s lasting influence is and will be undiminished so long as there are reporters, journalists and bloggers who are able to publish daily accounts of the human condition.  In that regard the Spirit of Will Rogers lives!

Remembering Will Rogers


1 Comment

  1. Mark Miller
    Aug 16, 2015

    I have said it before, I really feel sorry for those who didn’t have a chance to be a Roper.