Will praises Nebraskans Morton, Carson and Buffett

# 353, January 28, 2005

Nebraska City, Neb.: This town on the banks of the Missouri is one you may not be familiar with, but I guarantee you know about a holiday that was started here in 1872. Arbor Day was proposed by J. Sterling Morton, who ranks with Johnny Appleseed in his devotion to planting trees. He said, “Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.” And he felt “each generation ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” Who can argue with that? Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed, “To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as a people, we must have trees. See, he was smart enough to know if you want to carry a big stick you need to plant a tree first.

Mr. Morton served a term as Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland and he believed not just in planting trees but in nurturing them so he and future generations could eat their fruit, sit in their shade, build with their lumber, and heat homes with their waste.

I’m here for a meeting in the Lied Lodge, a wonderful convention center built almost entirely of timber and stone, and situated across the valley from Mr. Morton’s magnificently preserved home. Everywhere in this fine facility you are surrounded by laudatory quotes honoring trees, and by hospitality fit for a king. This entire Lodge is heated by burning wood chips and sawdust, and they tell me in summer it is cooled in the same way.

This week, Nebraska is mourning the passing of one of her own, Johnny Carson. He was born across the river in Iowa, but grew up in Norfolk, northwest of Omaha, and folks there are still proud to claim him. I can’t add much to the stories you’ve heard from so many of his friends and folks who got a boost from appearing on the Tonight Show.

His thirty years of shows gave us a nightly dose of laughter, and we’re still laughing. If you need a mental boost, to turn a frown to a smile or an outright laugh, often all that’s needed is a quick recall of a favorite Johnny Carson incident. Here are three: his comment to the well-endowed Dolly Parton, the night George Gobel followed Dean Martin and Bob Hope, and the longest laugh in television history when Ed Ames didn’t aim quite high enough when demonstrating his skill throwing a tomahawk.

Omaha is getting spruced up for a visit from the President next week. After delivering his State of the Union speech, he says he will go to five states, including this one. That seems backwards to me; if he wants to give Congress the lowdown on the states of the Union, he ought to go see them first, then report.

The Omaha World-Herald figures Mr. Bush is coming to discuss his plan to privatize part of Social Security and persuade Senator Ben Nelson to vote for it. But I got an idea, and don’t be surprised if our President hasn’t thought of it first: he is really coming to Omaha to see Warren Buffett.

See, if he can get Warren to take over running these private accounts, and do for the country what he’s done over the past forty years for his Berkshire Hathaway investors, why this so-called privatization plan would pass in a minute. The AARP could do their next survey on a postcard with one question: Would you prefer getting the current return rate on your Social Security investment, or would you opt for the rates Warren Buffett has been getting?

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“It’s just as Mr. Brisbane and I have been constantly telling you: Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock, and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.” DT #1019, Oct. 31, 1929

“OMAHA, Neb.: Left Chicago last night at 10 o’clock in a snowstorm and flew to Omaha. These mail (pilots) can get through weather that most people couldn’t find their way from the house to the garage with a well-lighted course. Good planes and good pilots!
The farmers out here threaten to keep Norris as Senator in Washington till they get relief. If I was you, Mr. Coolidge, I would take care of the farmers at once.” 
DT #489, Feb. 20, 1928

“OMAHA, Neb.: Just been prowling around up in this country with the farmers. They have about given up hope of getting farm relief and have decided to fertilize instead.” DT #494, Feb. 26, 1928

Inauguration speech leaves Will in a pickle

# 352, January 20, 2005

TOLEDO, Ohio:  It’s inauguration day in Washington. Four years ago today I was in Iowa to speak to a Cattlemen’s banquet, and those folks’ favorite line from his 2001 speech was, “The steaks for America are never small.” That’s what they heard him say, and I didn’t have the heart to tell ’em what he really said was ‘stakes’.

Today I’m speaking to a different breed of farmers, at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress. I listened rather closely to see if the President would say anything these apple polishers and sweet corn pickers might find amusing, perhaps he would lay out a plan to “squash the terrorists”. But, no, he let me down, and I’ve got to come up with my own jokes.

Once again he thrilled the old rancher’s when he said he wanted to “give every American a steak (stake) in the future”.

When he proclaimed, “no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave,” the Democrats applauded. They don’t want to be a slave to the Republicans, and they claim he isn’t fit to be a master.

President Bush laid out a promise of liberty and freedom throughout the world. And he appeared to guarantee our help to anyone that wants it. He said “freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places.” Well, I guarantee you these farmers will help erase the hunger if he can get Mr. Edison to supply the light.

Enough of this foolishness. If you haven’t read the full script of the speech go find a copy. For Lord’s sake, don’t just listen to what the so-called analysts or comedians say about it.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers: (on Inaugurations…, and freedom)

“(President Franklin Roosevelt) is a fast worker. He was inaugurated at noon in Washington, and they started the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and before it got half way down there, he’d closed every bank in the United States.

Now a Republican woulda never thought of a thing like that. No, no, he’d of let the depositors close it. And mind you , Mr. Roosevelt was just two days ahead of the depositors himself.” Radio broadcast, April 30, 1933

“Well, all of the papers have been full of the (Calvin Coolidge) inauguration, commenting on the simplicity of it, some of them for and others against…. I don’t think you can stir up a whole lot of excitement and get 110,000,000 people het up over a man getting up out of his seat, and sitting down in the same seat again. If it was a new man it would have been different…. But here is a guy who just raises up and bows and sits down, and the city of Washington feels hurt that the entire mortgage-bearing people of the United States were not there to see it.” WA #117, March 8, 1925

“I am in favor of giving the Philippines their freedom and then us go under their protectorate. That’s the only chance I see of us maybe getting an improvement in the government.” DT #1700, Jan. 4, 1932

“The Philippines are voting on whether they want freedom or not. They were in favor of it till they sent a commission over here and saw what it was. Now they are in doubt.” DT #2416, May 1, 1934

Farmers gather at historic Netherland Hotel

# 351, January 15, 2005

CINCINNATI: Martin Luther King Day is Monday, and Ohio, like the rest of the country, is ready to honor his memory. He preached peace and understanding, and if we could have it for even one day a year it would be a miracle.

The Ohio River here is high, but there’s other towns and rivers where the flooding is a whole lot worse. California is ready for sunshine for a change. Our western mountains need all the snow they can get but folks would appreciate a few days break in the weather for skiing.

We sure haven’t forgotten the tsunami victims. That disaster kinda puts in perspective a mudslide or avalanche or rising water.

I’m in Cincinnati with about 700 progressive farmers who are learning all they can about raising crops without plowing the land. These no-till farmers are reducing erosion of our topsoil, and at the same time taking carbon out of the air and storing it in the ground. That’s supposed to help reduce global warming. But really, it don’t matter to these farmers whether you think the Earth is getting warmer or colder, they know that banking carbon in their soil as organic matter is good for the land and good for growing better crops.

One of the best farmers in Chile, Carlos Crovetto, left in the middle of wheat harvest to speak to this group about how he turned poor ground into an excellent farm when he quit plowing. Jim Kinsella, from Illinois, hasn’t plowed in over twenty years and don’t see any reason to start now. Barry Fisher and Dan DeSutter of Indiana showed how ryegrass as a winter cover crop can add extra benefits to the soil. Steve Powles flew halfway around the world, from Perth, Australia, to show how rotating herbicides is important for farmers.

We’re meeting at the historic Netherland hotel. It was taken over by Hilton, and I figure old Conrad Hilton himself would be proud of this edifice. It has had some notable visitors. Winston Churchill stayed here, so did Eleanor Roosevelt, Bing Crosby, even Elvis.

Historic quote from Will Rogers: (on plowing)

“You know, we’re always talking about pioneers and what great folks the old pioneers were. Well, I think if we just stopped and looked at history in the face, the pioneer wasn’t a thing in the world but a guy that wanted something for nothing.
He was a guy that wanted to live off of everything that nature had done.
He wanted to cut a tree down that didn’t cost him anything, but he never did plant one.
He wanted to plow up the land that should have been left to grass. We’re just now learning that we can rob from nature the same way as we can rob from an individual.
All he had was an ax, and a plow, and a gun, and he just went out and lived off nature. But really, he thought it was nature he was living off of, but it was really future generations that he was living off of.” 
Radio broadcast, April 14, 1935

Hockey rules in Canada, not Queen Elizabeth

# 350, January 6, 2005

RIDGETOWN, Ontario:  All I know is what I read in the newspaper, and Wednesday morning the National Post was devoted pert near exclusively to the Canadian Junior Hockey team. They beat Russia 6-1 to earn the Gold medal in the World Championship. Must have been 8 or 9 pages on it. They held this two-week tournament in the famous American sports metropolis of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and in the whole Western Hemisphere, I rather doubt that anyone outside of North Dakota and Canada hardly knew they were playing.

But up here hockey rules, and with no “senior” hockey thanks to the NHL lockout, these folks flock to wherever there’s ice with a goal at each end. It was great competition, and if the USA team had done better than fourth, it would have attracted more American fans, perhaps from as far away as western Minnesota.

A few hundred miles to the southeast on the same night, Southern Cal rocked the Oklahoma Sooners 55-19 in the college football championship. I got to see it on television piped in from Detroit. The National Post never even had room for the score. Best Trojan surprise attack since Helen hid with her soldiers in a wooden horse. But it wasn’t really a surprise, except for the lopsided score.

I’m up here on the north shore of Lake Erie, speaking at Ridgetown College. The school’s been here since 1922, educating Ontario’s best farmers. You might think we would be in an auditorium, but no, we’re in a livestock arena. It’s a nice arena, concrete floor, with permanent bleachers on each side, and at one end hanging up near the rafters is a big photo of Queen Elizabeth. It’s a younger Queen Elizabeth, and I am guessing that maybe thirty or forty years ago it was a gift to the College President for his office. It is an attractive picture, but after many years he grew weary of having the Queen looking over his shoulder,… along with alumni, parents and politicians…, and decided to look around for an alternative site to hang a queen.

Now I ain’t complaining. These wonderful farmers are gathered for their yearly update on all that’s new and important in the agricultural line, and I told them it was the first time I had presented in front of a photo of royalty. Everyone agreed it was a considerable step up from a picture of President Bush.

In closing today, I want it fully understood that I am receiving no money for airing my political views. Not that I couldn’t use $240,000, which seems to be the going rate. But neither Bush nor Kerry could ever figure out if I was for him or agin him. To stave off poverty till the next election, I may be obliged to start my own educational support campaign, called “No columnist left behind”. Somewhat fortunately for us columnists, Dave Barry is on a well-deserved sabbatical leave to rest up, as he states it, from the rigors of writing a page and a half a week. Dave is such an icon for columnists that Americans will immediately see the need to offer support, guidance and perhaps remedial psychological aid to writers struggling to meet their page and a half weekly quota, not to mention the pressure of, once again, trying to pass their  fourth grade profeciency exam.

Historic quote by Will Rogers: (on Annexing Canada)

“Canada is principally an Agricultural country and we raise more now than the farmers down home can sell for enough to put in the next year’s crop. About the only thing I can think of we could use it for would be a skating rink in the winter and we got such a poor class of Skaters that we couldn’t hardly afford to maintain it just for that. Unless we could trade in Wisconsin on it some way I can’t see any reason for annexing it. So I have advised against it. I think my decision will suit President Coolidge for he has just about all he can handle down there now without annexing 8 million more farmers. What we need is some good country to annex us.” WA #201, Oct. 17, 1926