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Dunagin: The Legacy of Will Rogers’ Political Satire

Charles Dunagin
Charles Dunagin

Editor’s Note: Charles Dunagin is a retired editor and publisher of the McComb Enterprise Journal. As an University of Mississippi alum holding a degree in journalism, Dunagin has earned numerous awards including the Silver Em Award from the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association at Ole Miss, the Silver Inky award from Mississippi Universtiy for Women and the Student Printz Mississippi Medalist Award from University of Southern Mississippi. He was a 1999 inductee of the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame and a 2007 inductee of the MCJ Hall of Fame. He is now residing in Oxford, Mississippi.

It’s a safe bet that none of the musings of today’s comedians and political satirists will match the longevity of Will Rogers.

Rogers, who died in an airplane crash in 1935, was an Oklahoma cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator, and stage and motion picture actor.
Words he spoke during the Great Depression resound even today. He wanted this carved on his tombstone: “I never met a man I didn’t like,” a phrase that sometimes is twisted around to “Will Rogers never met (you fill in the name).”

Tom Purcell, an author and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist, writes “with incivility running high in our politics and society, we sure could use a dose of sanity” from Rogers.

He’s right. Here are a few Rogers quotes. Apply them to the presidential race, the federal government or Mississippi as they fit:

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

“If you ever injected the truth into politics you have no politics.”

“There is only one redeeming thing about this whole election. It will be over at sundown, and let everybody pray that it’s not a tie, for we couldn’t go through with this thing again.” (No problem if it’s for a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Speaker Philip Gunn would settle that).

“One of the evils of democracy is you have to put up with the man you elect whether you want him or not. That’s why we call it democracy.”

“You can’t hardly find a law school in the country that don’t, through some inherent weakness, turn out a senator or congressman from time to time…if their rating is real low, even a president.”

“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.”

“When Congress makes a joke, it’s a law, and when they make a law, it’s a joke.”

“Congress meets tomorrow morning. Let us pray: Oh Lord, give us strength to bear that which is about to be inflicted upon us. Be merciful with them, oh Lord, for they know not what they’re doing. Amen.”

“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.”

“We all joke about Congress but we can’t improve on them. Have you noticed that no matter who we elect, he is just as bad as the one he replaces.”

“A politician is not as narrow-minded as he forces himself to be.”

And finally for those who advocate campaign finance reform: “America (that could be changed to Mississippi) has the best politicians money can buy.”

Charles Dunagin is a retired editor and publisher who is currently residing in Oxford, Mississippi. He can be reached at cdunagin@enterprise-journal.com.

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