We are gathered here today to commemorate the passing of a friend – a noble friend, a selfless friend, a friend who gave up his life for all of us. Our friend’s great sacrifice is often forgotten amid the commercialization of this season, with the popular focus on gifts, money and travel. But not tonight. Tonight we remember the one who died that we might live. I am referring, of course, to the turkey. [Puts on the turkey hat.]
The turkey is a noble and serious bird. Ben Franklin recognized its grand and elegant bearing, and pushed to establish it as a national icon. We would have done well to listen. What, in retrospect, is a better symbol of the American ethos – the bald eagle, vanishing and remote, preserved but forgotten? Or the turkey, jolly,overweight and ubiquitous, gobbling away with plump dignity, oblivious to its impending doom?
It is that oblivious nature that I most want to recall tonight. Friends, the death of the turkey is the death of innocence. For a thousand days, the turkey is warm and full, kept healthy by the humans it must surely believe to be its caretakers. On the morning of the thousand and first day, it wakes up hungry and optimistic, blissful and ignorant. But the hand that feeds it is connected to the mouth it feeds, and its caretakers lead it to the slaughter.
There are, to be sure, many lessons that may be learned from this noble bird. No doubt some would say the turkey teaches us skepticism and vigilance, lest we too be cheerfully led down the path to the slaughterhouse. However I am not here to eat turkey but to praise it; and I can think of many worse fates than to spend a thousand days full and happy, and on the thousand and first, to make someone else the same.