Special Edition: today is the 75th Anniversary of the most famous speech Will Rogers ever made. Appearing on a national radio broadcast with President Hoover, Will started off with a couple of minutes of light humor, then got into the meat of the issue. The official name is below, but it became known as the “Bacon and beans and limosines” speech, even though Will never used any of those three words in the talk. News reel cameras recorded the entire speech, and it is available today on video and DVD.
President’s Organization on Unemployment Relief Broadcast
Now don’t get scared and start turning off your radios. I’m not advertising or trying to sell you anything. If the mouthwash you are using is not the right kind and it tastes sort of like sheep dip why you’ll just have to go right on using it. I can’t advise any other kind at all. And if the cigarettes that you are using, why if they don’t lower your Adam’s apple, why I don’t know of any that will. You will just have to cut out apples, I guess. That’s the only thing I know.
Now, Mr. Owen Young asked me to annoy on this program this evening. You all know Mr. Owen D. Young. You know, he’s the only sole surviving wealthy Democrat, so naturally when a wealthy Democrat asks me to do anything I have to do it, see? Well, Mr. Young, he’s head of the Young Plan. He’s the originator of the Young Financial European Plan. He’s head of the Young Men’s Temperance Union, and originator of Young’s Markets, and Young Kippur. And was the first Democratic child born of white parents in Youngstown, Ohio.
He started the Young Plan in Europe. That was that every nation pay just according to what they could afford to pay, see? And, well, somebody else come along with an older plan than Young’s plan, and it was that nobody don’t pay anybody anything, and course that’s the oldest plan there is. And that’s the one they are working under now. That’s why we ain’t getting anything from Europe.
So when Mr. Young asked me to appear why I said, “Well, I’m kind of particular. Who is going to be the other speaker? Who else is on the bill with me?” And he said, “Well, how would Mr. Hoover do?”
Well, I slightly heard of him, you know, and I said, “Well, I’ll think it over.” So I looked into Mr. Hoover’s record and inquired of everybody, and after I had kind of thrown out about two-thirds of what the Democrats said about him why I figured that I wouldn’t have much to lose by appearing with Mr. Hoover, so I’m here this evening appearing on the bill with Mr. Hoover. So now I expect you won’t hear any more of “Amos and Andy”; it will just be Hoover and Rogers from now on.
Now we read in the papers every day, and they get us all excited over one or a dozen different problems that’s supposed to be before this country. There’s not really but one problem before the whole country at this time. It’s not the balancing of Mr. Mellon’s budget [Secretary of the Treasury]. That’s his worry. That ain’t ours. And it’s not the League of Nations that we read so much about. It’s not the silver question. The only problem that confronts this country today is at least 7,000,000 people are out of work. That’s our only problem. There is no other one before us at all. It’s to see that every man that wants to is able to work, is allowed to find a place to go to work, and also to arrange some way of getting more equal distribution of the wealth in the country.
Now it’s Prohibition, we hear a lot about that. Well, that’s nothing to compare to your neighbor’s children that are hungry. It’s food, it ain’t drink that we are worried about today. Here a few years ago we were so afraid that the poor people was liable to take a drink that now we’ve fixed so that they can’t even get something to eat.
So here we are, in a country with more wheat, and more corn, and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world; there’s not a product that you can name that we haven’t got more of than any other country ever had on the face of the earth, and yet we’ve got people starving. We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile. The potter’s fields are lined with granaries full of grain. Now if there ain’t something cockeyed in an arrangement like that then this microphone here in front of me is, well, it’s a cuspidor, that’s all.
Now I think that perhaps they will arrange it, I think some of our big men will perhaps get some way of fixing a different distribution of things. If they don’t they are certainly not big men and won’t be with us long. Now I say, and have always claimed, that things would pick up in ’32. Thirty-two, why ’32? Well, because ’32 is an election year, see, and the Republicans always see that everything looks good on election year, see? They give us three good years and one bad one. No, no, three bad ones and one good one. I like to got it wrong. That’s the Democrats does the other. They give us three bad years and one good one, but the good one always comes on the year that the voting is, see? Now if they was running this year why they would be all right. But they are one year late. Everything will pick up next year and be fine.
These people that you are asked to aid, why they are not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can’t give them a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there’s not a one of us has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got. I don’t suppose there is the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America that hasn’t contributed in some way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It was the big boys themselves who thought that this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over-merged, and over-capitalized, and over-everything else. That’s the fix that we’re in now.
Now I think that every town and every city will raise this money. In fact, they can’t afford not to. They’ve got the money because there’s as much money in the country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it, but it’s there. And I think the towns will all raise it because I’ve been on a good many charity affairs all over the country and I have yet to see a town or a city ever fail to raise the money when they knew the need was there and they saw the necessity. Every one of them will come through.
Europe don’t like us and they think we’re arrogant, and bad manners, and have a million faults, but every one of them, well, they give us credit for being liberal [meaning generous].
Doggone it, people are liberal. Americans, I don’t know about America being fundamentally sound and all that after-dinner hooey, but I do know that America is fundamentally liberal.
Now I want to thank Mr. Gifford, the head of this unemployment, thank Mr. Young, and I certainly want to thank Mr. Hoover for the privilege of being allowed to appear on the same program with him because I know that this subject is very dear to Mr. Hoover’s heart and know that he would rather see the problem of unemployment solved than he would to see all the other problems he has before him combined. And if every town and every city will get out and raise their quota, what they need for this winter, why it will make him a very happy man, and happiness hasn’t been a steady diet with our President. He’s had a very tough, uphill fight, and this will make him feel very good. He’s a very human man. I thank you. Good night.