Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA341 July 7, 1929
PUT CAL TO WORK
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and the Magazines. You know if you want to get what Mr. Coolidge says, you got to get it in the Magazines. When he was just President you could read what he said in the newspapers for three cents. But since he is the Late Ex President why itís 35 cents. Not only Mr. Coolidge but all of our big men are breaking out in small thick periodicals.
I just last night read two very nice human stories, one in the American Magazine and the other in the Cosmopolitan, both of which Mr. Coolidge had written. One was on his life up around Plymouth notch Vermont. He told of his early school days, he said when he was three years old he knew his letters, and started to school at five and at twelve he knew as much as the Teacher, in fact he said he knew as much as any teachers up there. The way he kinder explained it he just was on the verge of being a Child Prodigy.
At twelve they sent him away to school at Ludlow. I was up through there and visited Plymouth and Ludlow and all those historic places, and Ludlow is just about two hills and a valley away, but in those days it constituted going some place. He paid a mighty fine tribute to the upbringing of the Country Boy, said if he had to be brought up again that he would just go ahead and be brought up in the same place. Course he knows how itís done now and the next time wouldent be so hard.
I never was President, I never was even a Senator. But so would I choose to be brought up where I was brought up. But I bet you there is a lot of things I did that you bet I would know better than to do them again. If I was going to be brought up again, the first thing I would specialize in would be boxing, then the next time I would just go through life getting even with a few that kinder hung it on me then.
He said it was winter and the snow was on the ground when he left for school and he went in a sleigh. Him and a Calf. The calf was going to market and him to Washington, (only then he dident know it). His whole story was a mighty human document. You know thatís one thing about Mr. Coolidge he has never been spoiled.
Then in the other Article he dwelled on his life in the White House. He could tell you the exact number of dinners that they entertained and the exact number they went out too. In fact he could tell you what they was supposed to eat at each place. Told about feeding the Senators and Congressmen at breakfasts at the White House. He laid particular stress on the fact that he fed some Democratic ones. He seemed to bring that out to show his liberality. Fed íem even when he knew he would get no favors from them. Paid a lovely compliment to Mrs. Coolidge which was richly deserved.
You know itís kinder nice to have our Presidents and big men get right down human and tell us what they are thinking about. But they should never be allowed to have all this time to do all this reminiscing. I tell you with all our boasted generosity we are an ungrateful Nation: we donít do a thing for our retired Presidents. I donít mean declare a pension for them. Itís not generally money they need, (though very few have a competent income to keep them in comparitive luxury for the rest of their lives). But itís employment; itís work they need. They should be paid a handsome sum but know that they were delivering something for it.
Who knows more of the workings of our Government than the man that has run it for four or eight years? Who knows more of our Foreign relations? Cabinet men know of their Departments, but the President knows of all Departments. There should be some position created where we could benefit from the knowledge and advice of a man that we have had in training all these years. It should be something where he would be a Member, we will say, of our Foreign Relation Committee. Now they are disscussing something that he is bound to know more about than any of them. For he has had access to knowledge that never reaches them. He could explain to them why it might be advisable to take a certain course, and give them reasons that before that might never occur to them.
He would have no vote so he couldent possibly be a balance of power. Not only Foreign Relations but various of our very important Committees Agriculture, Federal Reserveóeven if he should be of the opposite Political faith of his successor, (which donít happen often). His duties should not conflict in any way with the Presidentís policys. He simply expresses an opinion, an opinion backed by knowledge.
Then he would feel like he was a real benefit to his Country. It would keep him active, and would bring us back a thousand fold what we paid him. Make his salary at least fifty thousand a year. Thatís about what you can get for managing a little chain of Drug Stores, or a small Oil Company. Then it would also give him a chance while in office to give more and better service to us. For his thoughts would not be continually on what he was going to do for a living when he had to get out. He would know what he was going to do.
Now you have often heard about pensioning them, but thatís no good, (course it beats what we got now) but this scheme of mine is to keep him working for us.
I will take it up with Congress and if anything comes of it, I will expect my commission from Mr. Coolidge and also Mr. Taft, for the Bill will be made retroactive.1
Itís such a good Bill it will go through along with Farm Relief.
1For William Howard Taft see WA 330:N 7.
WA342 July 14, 1929
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Lindy was just out among us a few days ago and opened up his line to the East, I predict that to be a great success in the near future.1
Itís just a nice easy jaunt from New York, two nights on the train, two days flying, no tremendous long hops that canít be made, but just a fine sure trip, they allow themselves two or three hours for delays and then can make their schedule each jump. I came out over the line when I came west six weeks ago and I think itís the ideal trip. The only thing, itís awful slow getting on those trains at night, it looks like losing a lot of time crawling along on them. But by doing that you have no night flying, and it helps to take off six or seven hundred miles.
And speaking of Lindy, some of the writings of our eastern newspaper men have been trickling into my view and it brought to light a kind of a concerted idea to try and cut the boy from up around the heart of his country and re-deposit him down along its footpaths. I had no idea they took it so serious when he so completely made a sucker out of them during his late honeymoon. I was out here in the west and didnít get the undercurrent of rumblings that they were letting out, and trying to insinuate that he ďhadnít done right by our press,Ē that they had made him and that he was ungrateful.
Now we will just stop and take up that bit of propaganda right now. Lindbergh was made by just two things. The Lord and a Wright Whirlwind Motor. Newspapers couldnít have flew him from one side of a razor blade to another. They reported the fact that he arrived there. Sure they did, but donít you think the French would have found it out sooner or later, and eventually have got the news back over here to us, even if it had to gone by word of mouth? I think that sooner or later after hearing of it that we would have suspected that it was considerable of a feat without even seeing a headline of it. Somebody would have no doubt given us the facts of the trip by book, and it might possibly have been announced over the radio, for those fellows are awful scarce of things to talk about sometimes.
Our Savior performed some pretty handy feats in the early days and his exploits have been handed down through the ages and made him our greatest hero, all accomplished without the aid of a newspaper. No weekly camera man recorded his daily adventures, he had to receive his publicity by word of mouth. Still he become quite famous even during his lifetime.
I am making no comparison, I am only showing what has been done. For after all the greatest publicity and interest in the world is to be told about something, not to have read about it. So I am going to argue with anybody who says that they made Lindbergh. In fact the less printed about people sometimes make folks more anxious and more interested in them, so when he drove out through the gate, with his bride of only a few minutes by his side, and waved the boys ďa merry how de doĒ why I donít think he owed íem a thing. Any man that flown the ocean alone, and returned to his people even though they be Zulus, and couldnít read, they would have been awful apt to consider him quite a boy. Being a good navigator, did him more good than all the editorials ever printed.
But when we turn the tables, what did he do for the newspapers? We get a different story. He gave íem the next most publicity to the war, if he had been paid for his stuff at just a fair authorís rate he would have been the highest salaried man in the world, what would some millionaire newspaper owner have given him if it had been possible to have, bought and controlled the entire rights of everything that was to printed about him and photographers? They ought to change the Lordís Prayer to read, ďNow I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord Lindbergh to keep. If he should die before he wakes, I pray the Lord his picture to take.Ē He has paid their rent for two years.
No, you writers when you try to pull that boy down you are just trying to fill up the Grand Canyon with old chewing gum, itís all right to try and be different and not string with the mob, but before you start doing it announce that thatís what you are doing it for, itís not a case of ordinary hero worship. Itís that the boy licks you at every turn. He won more friends by the way he conducted his engagement and his honeymoon than he did by his flight.
The flight only showed daring, ability, and of course good fortune, but his last adventure, showed shrewdness, modesty, and 100 percent common sense. When her family had to ask the police for protection against the press, that just about threw the last doubting vote over to the Lindbergh column in favor of ďgive a lover a chance.Ē
He has never made a wrong move yet, everything he has done has reflected glory on his country, he has been a gentleman under some pretty trying times. And we must never forget the one great thing of his flight, (whether he was sent over as a stowaway under auspices of the Oolagah Banner, or whether the trip was a blindfold cigarette test) he turned Americaís mind to aviation, just at a time when we was on the verge of going back to covered wagon days instead of the air.
After all, there is a mighty little line between do and donít, a small margin between success and failure. His exploit just give us that little push that sent us over into the aviation line, instead of decided that ďit wasnít practical.Ē
No, letís donít tear him down, at least while he is living and conducting himself in the manner he is. Wait a few years and then show that he didnít cross himself at all but used a double.
Itís all right now in these late years to show that George Washington would have fought on the British side if they had given him a commission and if Grant hadnít got drunk he wouldnít have won the war. But donít denounce Lindy because he didnít marry the press instead of Miss Morrow.
1Lindbergh (see WA 338:N 1) helped to found Transcontinental Air Transportation, an unique, short-lived ďweddingĒ of air-rail transportation.