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When I asked Doug Hay on Monday if he knew who Will Rogers was, he said "cowboy."  That's close enough, I guess, but after studying Will's life, and writings, a bit, I understand he was a lot more than that. As a world traveler and journalist, he chronicled many contemporary events in the early 20th century with an astuteness that would put many modern-day bloggers and tech writers to shame. His output was prolific, writing in daily and weekly periodicals.  I have links at the end of this post for those who want to find out more.  Before I left town for the ASUG Annual Conference (known to many as "SapphireNow"), I reread some of Will's writings.  A section about "conferences" jumped out at me.

Will was talking about international peace (or disarmament) conferences during the period between World Was I and World War II, though I'd say this perspective can be applied to any large gathering, including political rallies, revivals, and IT gatherings.  It's always rubbed me the wrong way that some people expect world-shattering news to come out of a scheduled and pre-packaged event.  I've sat through many keynotes, only to go back to my cubicle, puzzling what the rhetoric had to do with the business at hand.

This article appeared, as far as I can tell, in The Milwaukee Journal  on Nov 15, 1931 (though I have another source that spots it on November 8th).  I've clipped a section available from Google, under "fair use", and believe this content to be quotable for literary purposes.

Well, anyhow, they say that J.P. Morgan was pleased with this Laval's trip, and after all he is about the only man in America that everybody seems anxious to please. So the trip bore some fruit. Germany has got some fellow coming over now. We get all excited about each one of these Pilgrimages or conferences. We think and read of it at the time as though it was the last word, and that it would settle everything. Then two weeks after it's over, we can't for the life of us remember what happened. If we could get half as excited over what to put in the plate to make it look like soup and taste like soup and act like soup in our bread line, as we do over some international event that ain't going to ever come off anyway, why we could be better off.

In the printed material I have at home, the quote ends "can't for the life of us remember what happened." In the original article shown here, Will goes on to put a hard-eyed perspective on lofty talk, focusing on bread lines and basic nutrition. This was at the time of America's Great Depression, where millions were out of work.  I'll try to stay away from drawing political parallels to today's economic situation, and come back to food.

The place I'm staying this year is geared up for "SapphireNow" like I've never seen before. One of the reasons I liked it (other than it used to be a lot cheaper) was the family aspect.  Now, they're on the conference bus route, there were welcome handouts, and they even baked us cookies (I'll need to remind them this is also the ASUG annual conference for next time).

Last night, fellow SAP Mentor and good friend jon.reed had a birthday celebration at the SAP Mentors welcome gathering.  Jon is one of the gentlest, humblest people I know, and an incisive writer to boot.  I always get a healthy world perspective from him.

Many conference attendees worked on a Monday event, packing food for orphanages.  I support the concept, though I admit to having a little trepidation to a "feel-good" project at such an ostentatious event such as SapphireNow.  I hope those who did participate will remember the feeling in two weeks, and two months, and two years, continuing to donate their time to the bread lines.

Will Rogers links

Will Rogers books

Will Rogers film