Democratic National Convention gets Makeover

# 329, July 30, 2004

COLUMBUS: Like most of you this week, I’ve been watching television. One night, in the same time slot, we saw Last Comic Standing, Extreme Makeover and the Democratic National Convention.

It was confusing. When Dennis Kucinich left the stage I swear I saw a phone number where you could vote to bring him back next week. When a commentator marveled at Mrs. Heinz-Kerry’s appearance at age 65, I was thankful they skipped the part where they show the crayon marks on the face and the bandages.

All the signs said it was the Democratic National Convention, but I hardly recognized it. No fights over the platform. No arguments over seating the delegates. No hissing the speakers.

Even Senator Lieberman saw the transformation, and quoted “me” on television to prove it, “The Democrat Party of this convention sure is not the one Will Rogers joked about when he said ‘I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.'”

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards both made fine speeches. They were speeches aimed at persuading the undecided American voter, all 17 of them. They are already counting on the votes of the 5000 delegates in the hall, and most of the 15,000 journalists.

Speaking of make overs, tonight I heard where you can get liposuction on the installment plan. Kinda like buying a new car, the doctor removes the fat, and you pay him over the next 36 months, plus interest about 12 percent above Mr. Greenspan’s rate.

I wonder how many renege on the deal, and stop payment on the loan? How would you like to be the repo guy? And just how would that work? I suppose they would have to haul around a wash tub filled with excess flesh, and if you don’t pay up, they pump it back in.

It’s a great business for the plastic surgeons because by the time the payments run out you’ll likely have gained it all back and you’ll want it drawn off again.

Kerry and Bush are coming to Ohio tomorrow, so I’m heading for Canada. They’ll both set up a permanent camp here, leaving only for short day trips to Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with an occasional weekend in Florida. By November, you folks in the quiet, peaceful, uncontested states are going to owe Ohio. Big time.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: Democratic Convention, 1932

“No convention today. The Democrats met, talked, agreed and adjourned. So the day was a total loss. The convention officially opens tomorrow.

It wasn’t even a rehearsal today. Nobody fought, nobody even split the party.

Well, if you ever saw a disgusted bunch of people leaving a hall, it was all of us today.

Here people had traveled hundreds of miles, joined delegations, some come as spectators and paid fancy prices to see what? To see 1,100 delegates sit there and act like a lot of Republicans.

Why, there wasn’t an argument in a carload.

Cheered everything; hissed nothing, why it made me almost ashamed I was a Democrat! Here we have written about it, advertised it as a combat, a gigantic struggle of candidates, and conflicting platforms, and then everybody goes out kissing each other.” Convention Articles, June 27, 1932

“They was Democrats today, and we was all proud of ’em. They fought, they fit, they split, and adjourned in a dandy wave of dissension. That’s the old Democratic spirit. A whole day wasted and nothing done. I tell you they are getting back to normal.” Convention Articles, June 29, 1932

Speakers stand up, surrounded by hot air

# 328, July 21, 2004

PHOENIX, Ariz.: It’s hot here. Now that won’t surprise most of you, but when the Chamber of Commerce admits it’s hot, you know it’s news. Even the Chamber knows it’s a just a tad short of sizzling, but they’ll remain optimistic as long as there’s enough electricity to run the air conditioners. And enough water. Lord knows where it’ll come from, but there’s millions of people living out here in a desert, full of faith the water will keep on showing up.

I’m here at a convention with fifteen hundred professional speakers. Wow, 1500 speakers. I know what you’re thinkin’… it must be a tremendously big meeting to bring in all those speech makers. Well, it is a tremendous meeting. But it’s all speakers. Nobody else. They have gathered here at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, in this 110 degree Arizona heat, to listen and learn from each other.

This National Speakers Association favors hot air. Kinda like the Phoenix Chamber, they thrive on hot air. Every July they pick out a hot spot for a convention. Now, if you ask any speaker, “where’s your favorite location to speak in the middle of summer?”, you’ll hear places like Vail, The Greenbrier, Banff and Buffalo. (Actually Niagara Falls, but Buffalo is funnier, and has the same climate.) But when speakers decide among themselves where to congregate in July, it’s Dallas, New Orleans, San Antonio and Phoenix. Next year it’s Atlanta, and as one speaker hinted, in 2006 they’re planning to convene in a temporary tent in Death Valley.

With all that heat outdoors, every platform speaker knows they have a captive audience. Even the pools are too hot for a swim.

Even without the heat, nobody would walk out on these great speakers. Larry Winget said the most important thing is to “Be yourself”, and know it’s your Style that distinguishes you from all the other speakers. Seth Godin told us to be remarkable, so our ideas get noticed and spread.

NSA President Mark Sanborn summed up with three points on Love: Love what you do. Love who you do it with. Love who you do it for. That reminded me of something “I” said in a speech in 1935… According to the founder of NSA, Cavett Robert, here is what I said in that speech to the American Bar Association in Los Angeles: “If you want to be successful, it’s this simple: Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”

Well, I used up so much space gabbing about speakers, hardly any left for news. Alan Greenspan decided maybe we should pay some interest on the dough we borrow. Here lately it has been pretty much free… now it’ll cost us a percent and a quarter. Martha Stewart got sentenced 5 months in Federal Prison and 5 months house arrest. I’ve got a house to suggest for the house arrest… mine. It could use a little fixin’ up. For various and necessary purchases she would have to use her own money. (That would be the only sensible part of the entire sentence.)

Have you seen that security video footage on television? Terrifying. It looked so easy to get past the guards with prohibited items. But how can you fault the guards? Just doing their jobs. And if you can’t trust Sandy Berger, who can you trust.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

“I would rather have Arizona’s record as a state than New York with her numbers, Massachusetts with her intellect, or California with her modesty. Arizona prolongs the life of the afflicted as well as makes perpetual the lives of the well.” DT #2158, July 4, 1933

Weekly Comments: Sen. Kerry passes on Rogers, chooses Edwards

# 327, July 10, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio:  Well, just like in 1924, my “campaign” for the V-P slot got off the ground too late. When a spell-binding orator has been running for Vice President since February, that’s too many promises for an amateur to overcome in a few hours.

Mr. Kerry seems quite pleased with his choice of John Edwards. His speeches remind a lot of folks of William Jennings Bryan, the “Great Commoner”. You can discount about three-fourths of what the Republicans are saying about him. They weren’t too keen on Bryan either.

The selection gives us an inkling of what a President Kerry would do if bin Laden attacked us again. Nobody has asked him this question, but I know his answer… He would immediately send Vice President Edwards to the World Court, and sue bin Laden for a trillion dollars. I wouldn’t bet against him winning either, because he gets to keep a third. But don’t complain; we get to divvy up the other two-thirds, after deducting expenses, so we would each clear about $12.50.

The new report from Congress says the CIA got it wrong in Iraq when they claimed Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. But this Congressional report was not absolutely honest either. They said “Saddam didn’t have any WMD.” What it should have said is “he didn’t have any WMD left.” See, when you use up all of your poison gas on the Kurds, Saddam figured that solved two problems.

Today I’m in Springfield, at the old high school where Jonathan Winters learned comedy by practicing on the teachers. They had another famous graduate, James Rhodes, but he took his comedy to Columbus instead of Hollywood and got elected Governor four times.

I’m here today to help this county select their top 4-H members to compete at the State Fair. They’ve got some dandies… bright, prepared, and they’re such good speakers at 10 or 12 years old, why in a few years they could rank up there with Edwards and Bryan.

Now you might think a town that produced a Governor and a comedian would have a hard time topping those feats. But Springfield did. See, in 1902 a man named A. B. Graham invented a new organization for young folks, and he called it 4-H. So the next time you hear something good about what a fine 4-H boy or girl did in your community, you’ll know the club got its start in Springfield, Ohio.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“Well a state wouldn’t be a state unless it had a Springfield. Springfields are as numerous now as Hollywoods will be in the next generation. But Ohio has the original Springfield. It sure is a dandy little city. I caught it at its worst, when it was putting on a Booster Week. People in a town during a “booster” week can’t hardly wait till the following Monday to start in knocking the town again.” WA #151, Nov. 1, 1925


The “Historic Quote” section of this Weekly Comments will appeal to those of you intensely following the anticipated news about Senator Kerry’s choice for vice-president. For the other 90 percent, it will provide some light humor as a suitable ending to your July 4th holiday.

Weekly Comments: Will Sen. Kerry pick Will Rogers as V-P?

# 326, July 5, 2004

WESTON, West Va.: Senator Kerry played baseball on Iowa’s “Field of Dreams” this weekend. President Bush was speaking just a few miles down I-79 from here in Charleston.

Now, that would appear perfectly logical for Mr. Kerry; he has a Dream, and it involves being the #1 pitcher in Washington for the next four years. For Mr. Bush you may wonder, why is he campaigning in West Virginia when it’s states like Ohio where he needs votes. Well, it’s a holiday weekend, and half of Ohio is back home in West Virginia, so that’s where you go to reach ’em. The other half is in Kentucky and pretty much out of reach of any politicians, except those offering free samples of Jim Beam.

They say Mr. Kerry is naming his vice president this week. He has a long list of fine candidates… Sen. Edwards, Gen. Clark, Dick Gephardt, Sam Nunn, Sen. Biden, Gov. Graham, Sen. Clinton, even John McCain. I had not intended to spring this announcement till the convention in Boston, but he has forced my hand tonight.

Not one of those candidates can claim to live in three states: Oklahoma, California, and New York. I can say with confidence, a Democratic ticket with Will Rogers on it can carry two out of those three states. Of course a ticket with any other man might sweep all three.

When you hear his announcement, after reading this column, most of you will say, “He could have had somebody better.” Even without reading this column, you’ll likely say the same thing.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: the 1924 Democratic Convention in New York City

[this is the famous convention that required sixteen days, and 101 ballots, to nominate John W. Davis of West Virginia to run against Calvin Coolidge. VP nominee was Charles Bryan, brother of William Jennings Bryan.]


June 26, 1924, Article #4, New York Times

The following is one of the bravest statements made in a political decade:

In the entire three years of preparation by the Democratic Party to groom some man for this present crisis there has never been a mention of a man to run for Vice President….

So I just got off and held a caucus with myself and said somebody has got to be sacrificed for the sake of party harmony. I hereby and hereon put myself in nomination, and to save some other man being humiliated by having to put me in nomination, why, I will just nominate myself.

So I, Will Rogers, of Claremore, Oklahoma; Hollywood, California; and 42nd St. and Broadway, New York, do hereby step right out and declare myself, not only as a receptive but an anxious candidate for the husband’s position (meaning second) on the forthcoming Democratic ticket.

On first hearing this it may sound like a joke, but when I relate to you some of the qualifications which I possess, why, I think any fair-minded man will give me serious consideration.

But the trouble is there are not any fair-minded men in politics.

In the first place, they have got to nominate a farmer who understands the farmers’ condition. Well, I got two farms in Oklahoma, both mortgaged, so no man knows their condition better than I do.

He has also to be a man from the West. Well, if a man came from 25 feet further West than I lived last year, he would have to be a fish in the Pacific Ocean.

(Charles) Dawes was nominated on the Republican ticket on account of his profanity. Now I have never tried cussin’ in public, but I guess I could learn to get used to it before a crowd.

Another big reason why I should be nominated is I am not a Democrat.

Another still bigger reason why I should be nominated is I am not a Republican.

I am just progressive enough to suit the dissatisfied. And lazy enough to be a Stand Patter.

Oil has never touched me. The reason I know it never has is, I drilled a well on my farm in Oklahoma, and I never even touched it, much less oil touching me.

I never worked for a big corporation.

When the President can’t go anywhere, why, the Vice President has to go and speak or eat for him. Now, I could take in all the dinners, for I am a fair eater.

I could say, “I am sorry the President can’t come, but he had pressing business.” Of course, I wouldn’t tell the reason why he didn’t come, so I am just good enough a liar to be a good Vice President.

I am not much of an after-dinner speaker, but I could learn two stories, one for dinners where ladies were present, and one for where they were not.

Of course I have no dress suit [tuxedo]. The Government would have to furnish me a dress suit. If I went to a dinner in a rented one, they would mistake me for a Congressman.

I know I can hear a lot of you all say, “Yes, Will, you would make a good Vice President, but suppose something happened to the President?”

Well, I would do just like Mr. Coolidge. I would go in there and keep still and say nothing. He is the first President to discover that what the American people want is to be let alone.

P.S. I was born in a Log Cabin.

(This is from the book, “Convention Articles of Will Rogers”, available from the Will Rogers Museum:, then click on Gift Shop.)