Eagles or Turkeys, We Need Courage!

I saw my first eagle — outside of a zoo — while visiting friends in Washington State. A powerful eagle swooped down out of the pines across the street, right in front of our car. I remember how strong it looked. “What a fitting symbol for our country,” I said to my friend.

Although a number of birds were proposed for the Great Seal of the United States — a two-headed eagle, a rooster, a dove, and a “phoenix in flames” — the bald eagle was chosen as an emblem of the United States of America on June 20, 1782. The eagle represents freedom and strength.

Benjamin Franklin objected to the Bald Eagle as our national bird, claiming that it lacks courage—it often flees from mobs of smaller birds—and it exhibits bad moral character. Eagles, he said, were too lazy to fish for themselves; they rob from the catch of other birds. Franklin suggested Americans revere the turkey, instead. The turkey, he wrote, “is in comparison a much more respectable bird … a bird of courage.” (Hmmm… I might not react the next time someone calls me a “Turkey”!)

As we celebrate our country’s independence this week, I have many thoughts about America and courage. Certainly our military lacks no courage, but what about the citizenry. Have we become so accustomed to tolerating evil and immorality that we are afraid to stand for truth, decency, and the ethics and morality outlined so clearly in the Word of God? If we do not decide ahead of time that there are things worth standing for—even worth dying for—where will we get the courage when those things are threatened? We must make little daily choices for courage if we hope to be prepared for times of crisis.

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