Are you familiar with Will Rogers? Perhaps many of you reading this article will answer, no. Allow me to introduce you to a true American legend, William Penn Adair Rogers. Known as Will Rogers, he spent his entire life sprinkling mirth, humor and laughter to millions of people here at home in America and all over the world.
I knew little about him—mainly that he was a cowboy and told jokes on stage. While passing through the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City on a visit to my brother and his family in the great State of Oklahoma, I bought a book titled Will Rogers: A Pictorial Tribute to an American Legend. I wanted to learn more about this person who made people laugh. Who was this man with statues dedicated to him and so honored in this state?
It is a small book, about thirty-three pages. On the inside cover there is a picture of a large memorial dedicated to Will Rogers and bearing the Seal of the Cherokee Nation. It says:
“We honor the memory of Oklahoma’s beloved native son, a modest, unspoiled child of the plains, cowboy, actor, humorist and world traveler whose homely philosophy and superior gift brought laughter and tears to prince and commoner alike. His love of candor and sincerity, coupled with abounding wit and affable repartee, won for him universal homage and an appropriate title “Ambassador of Good Will.”
—Presented by The Cherokee Nation November 4th, 1946,
the 67th Anniversary of His Birth.
As Mr. Rogers himself once quipped: “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.”
Will Rogers was born in the Cherokee Nation in 1879, on vast open frontier land which later became Oolagah, Oklahoma. His father was a Cherokee senator, judge and ranch owner. His mother, a descendant of a Cherokee chief, was known for her sense of humor. She was a mother of eight and engaged in countless charities throughout her life. Will grew up on his family’s ranch where he learned to master the lariat for trick roping and to work longhorn cattle. He was a proud country cowboy and remained true to his roots throughout his whole life. “Every man has wanted to be a cowboy. Why play Wall Street and die young when you can play cowboy and never die?”
Will lived his life for the betterment of humanity. How, you might ask. He was gifted with a great sense of humor, and he demonstrated an immense love and respect for his fellowman. Exercising his freedom of speech, he freely expressed what was in his heart through his wit and wisdom. And he was loved for it. He was real—a cowboy, husband, father, adventurist, storyteller, philosopher, vaudeville performer, movie actor, newspaper columnist and radio personality who made everyone feel at home. He was one of the most popular and well-liked individuals of his time. His political humor was literally sought after by many in politics and in high places. Here are a few examples of his witty sayings that helped politicians laugh at themselves:
“I don’t tell jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
“Washington D.C. papers say: ‘Congress is deadlocked and can’t act.’ I think that is the greatest blessing that could befall this country.”
“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”
My spiritual teacher Mark L. Prophet wrote: “The one thing Will Rogers would keep forever was his sublime ability to remove the mask with the persistent love of a true friend. He practiced honesty and unmasked many of the stilted situations in life with his very clever wit. Will Rogers was everyone’s friend because he was the friend of the real man.”
Mark tells the story of Will Rogers giving a speech before a bankers’ convention. “Mr. Rogers said, ‘Loan sharks and interest hounds! I have addressed every form of organized graft in the US excepting Congress. So it’s naturally a pleasure for me to appear before the biggest!’ And the bankers and millionaires laughed at themselves—they liked it! And they became friends with Will Rogers.”
Will Rogers, where art thou?
What would you say today? Would you be allowed to say it? Would you recognize this land of the free and home of the brave?
In Mr. Rogers’ day, a person could speak his mind freely as long as it did no harm to other people. After all, freedom of speech is one of the natural, God-given rights guaranteed to all Americans in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The individual’s right to be free, authentic and true to himself/herself is a clear definition of who we are as Americans.
Today, we are witnesses to an open assault on free expression and free speech in our country. Citizens are being targeted, silenced or censored. We have seen many individuals and companies seriously harmed by an obsessive reach of control within our government and throughout society. Fortunately, a great number of citizens are waking up and now understand this assault. We are standing up as one voice to defend these rights and liberties that we hold dear in our nation. We must always claim this right as our own, for our nation and for future generations. Honest communication and free discussion of different points of view in the public square is vital and must be revived and preserved in our communities right now, before those who work hard to oppose freedom succeed in abolishing it in this great nation. Will Rogers would likely find himself firmly in the opposite camp. One of my favorite Will Rogers quotes is, “We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.”
There is a grave contrast between Will Rogers’ America of the early 20th century and the early 21st-century America that we live in. Where is the laughter? Where is the good will? We could sure use some good ol’ political humor. Politicians, who need it the most, I dare say, and of course the rest of us as well, can learn much from the writings of this cowboy at heart with his homespun humor. Imagine Mr. Rogers speaking his own lines today: “Congress—they are the professional joke makers. I could study all my life and not think up half the amount of funny things they can think of in one session of Congress.”
Will Rogers told jokes and people laughed. However, he understood the hardships and problems fellow citizens faced and he had courage to speak to our leaders about them. He was the voice of the American people, and his writings (he published over two million words in his lifetime!) are just as meaningful and relevant today as back then. He had the ability to communicate with people of all walks of life. He exemplified his genuine concern for others in his charitable service in many humanitarian efforts. It was said of him by many, “He embodied the very best qualities of America.”
Others echoed these sentiments:
“Will Rogers has done more to educate the American public in world affairs than all the professors.” —New York Times
“He helped steady millions of drifting people not only financially but mentally and morally. Because of this personal trait, which Lincoln had, Will Rogers is one of the greatest men who ever lived.” —H. Keith, Biographer
Good, clean laughter is good for the heart! It opens up pathways in remarkable ways and allows us to see and accept each other in a softer and warmer light. It is liberating to the soul. Laughter unifies. Will Rogers proved that. Other writers agree:
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” —Charles Dickens
“Laughter is a force for democracy.” —John Cleese
“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.” —Thomas Mann
Will Rogers, cowboy philosopher, was a great statesman to me, an outstanding individual. He was one big loving heart. He united people in ways other great thinkers in our land never gave thought to.
I hope you have enjoyed learning of this remarkable man who often said: “I never met a man that I didn’t like.” I keep his small book handy as a reminder of how I want to spend my days. In his honor, may we all express ourselves freely, with dignity and a sense of humor. Try to spread a little laughter and good will, heart to heart, each and every day!
As I write here about the importance to me of ‘good humor’ and its value in the art of communication and free speech, I must add that Mark Prophet, my spiritual teacher and mentor, had a wonderful sense of humor and befriended everyone whom he met. He was a great storyteller. He had the confidence to speak his mind and heart freely and honestly, and his example lives on today through the Teachings of the Ascended Masters published by The Summit Lighthouse, a Beacon of Freedom for the whole world.
I would like to end this article with an excerpt from a Pearl of Wisdom written by the Ascended Master El Morya and published by The Summit Lighthouse. Along with Mark and Elizabeth Prophet, El Morya, the Master of God’s Will, is my mentor and spiritual teacher of many years. Chief of the Darjeeling Council of the Great White Brotherhood, he too has much to say on the value of a good sense of humor. Enjoy his words of wisdom:
Let the Twinkle of Mirth Abound on Earth
“The twinkle of mirth is needed on earth in many a situation in which mankind find themselves. A happy, confident approach to any situation, even what appears to be quite a serious one, is of tremendous assistance to all concerned in bringing about a divinely just and satisfactory resolution thereof.
“To possess a good sense of humor is to be greatly blessed; but if you are not so naturally blessed, you can always call to any of us and we shall be oh, so grateful for that call which will enable us to give you the sense of humor that is so much a part of the consciousness of the ascended host.
“So, to bring you divine illumination that emanates from above the stars and is sent from my heart to yours with a twinkle! again I say—
Let the twinkle of mirth
Abound on earth!
“For joy is one of the virtues of Divine Love; and joy and mirth are vibrations that in your application of the Law assist you to attain much more quickly your daily as well as your ultimate victory. Such victory I AM expressing—all ways.:
Lovingly, Morya (The Ascended Master Morya El)