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Friday, January 28, 2005 ISSUE #353
 

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


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