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KTD boasts famous speakers

WORTHINGTON — Since King Turkey Day began in 1939, a number of famous and occasionally infamous speakers have graced the city of Worthington, from Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy to Jesse Jackson and Jesse Ventura.

These are just a few of them, with excerpts from the original reporting of the time.

Nixon Praises Government, Sen. Humphrey does radio talk to blast Nixon’s points

Vice President Richard Nixon took the limelight of Wednesday’s King Turkey Day celebration here, claiming the Eisenhower administration has given the people “a government that is loyal, efficient and honest.”

Four hours later, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey took to the local radio station to give a stinging, “point-by-point rebuttal” to Nixon’s speech.

The Vice President had touched lightly on farm issues in his local address, speaking at length on the “four great issues” of the 1952 election campaign — “Korea, controls, communism and corruption.”

Humphrey struck back with a 10-point “statement of facts,” which he said “the fog and smoke screen of communism and corruption” are hiding from the American people…

Nixon told the local audience that if Democrats “had cooperated with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI” the problem of communism “could have been dealt with years before.”

Main points in Nixon’s speech were:

  • The present administration is “keeping faith with the people by keeping your dollar worth a dollar today.”
  • “We have brought a new climate of morality and integrity to the federal government.”
  • President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles are leaders who by experience, temperament and judgment are best qualified to meet the Communist threat and to attain an objective of “peace without surrender.”
  • America needs to beware of Socialism.
  • “Our policies are based on the fundamental principle that the American system should be given a chance to work.”
  • National prosperity depends on farm prosperity.
  • Administration tax cuts have saved the taxpayer money.

LBJ: ‘End Divided Government’

Lyndon B. Johnson, speaking at Central grade school auditorium Wednesday after rain washed out his Turkey Day appearance in courthouse square, called for an end to “divided government” and urged the election of a Democratic administration to work with what he predicted is sure to be a Democratic congress.

The tall Texan addressed a standing-room crowd of about 450-500 persons who braved the rain and generally disagreeable weather which scuttled most of Turkey Day’s attraction-packed program.

Johnson pointed out that the Democrats now have 66 of the 100 senate seats but he added that “one-third plus one can undo everything the two-thirds does as long as the administration is against us.”

Contrasting Democrats and Republicans, Johnson reviewed campaign slogans used by the Republicans in the 20th century: “McKinley told us to ‘stand pat’, Harding wanted to go ‘back to normalcy’, Coolidge wanted us to ‘keep cool’ and Hoover said ‘prosperity is just around the corner’.

“These were not insincere men,” Johnson declared, “but frightened men. They were not adventurous. Theirs was a ‘no-new-start’ philosophy.

“If you want your child no better off than you are, no richer, no better educated,” the Texan concluded, “then the Republicans have what you want.”

Kennedy was highlight of very big day

King Turkey’s pulse was returning to normal today after a four and one-half hour bout with Kennedy fever on Saturday.

Robert F. Kennedy of New York poked his head from the door of his chartered North Central airliner just after noon on Turkey Day. A gust of wind immediately tosseled his sandy, white-streaked hair. This disheveled appearance was to remain until he boarded the same plane to take off at 4:30 p.m. for Wisconsin.

But in the interim between landing and taking off, an estimated 80,000 persons were exposed to the spell of the rising political star whose beloved brother was felled by a bullet in Dallas.

Cars were parked on both sides of the airport road between the runways and Highway 59 as an anxious, placard-waving crowd awaited Kennedy’s arrival. The uninitiated may have suspected that the site for the 26th Turkey Day observance was the airport, the way thousands of fans jammed about.

Yet the prime attraction was the man in the grey suit, in whose direction “Welcome Bobby” posters were pointed and whose handshake and autograph were intoxicating.

Upon taking the podium, RFK said, “I’m delighted to be here, to be in Worthington.” He punned about his reticence to handle the turkey which earlier had been presented to him. “I know there is a feeling among some of you that I didn’t get close enough to the turkey. But I heard about what happened to Estes Kefauver.”

In 1956, when Kefauver accepted the customary bird, he was both scratched and soiled by the nervous turkey.

However, though Kennedy “just patted him,” he promised to take the turkey home with him and “give it to my children. They’ll play with it,” he laughed.

Turning to his major address, Kennedy stressed that all cities, large and small, “are interdependent on one another.” He said that Worthington is representative of the entire United States because “you’ve taken the initiative” to create a junior college without waiting for the government to do it.

Though the country is in the midst of “immense change,” RFK continued, “we share problems” common to both rural and urban areas.

Among those challenges, “We are going to have to find the same amount of jobs and schools in the next 35 years as we have since we have been a country.”

“The only way we will be effective and successful is by working together,” he suggested.

Kennedy commented that “the world has changed immensely since I was graduated from high school.” He referred to the atomic capacity of the world to destroy itself.

Unrest is not limited to the United States, the senator reflected. “All over the world, there is a demand for change and for a better life.” He shared some observations made during his Latin American visit. “These people demand change just as we do, and we want to achieve it here and around the world.”

1972, Hubert H. HumphreyHubert H. Humphrey also spoke at King Turkey Day in 1950, 1959, 1965 and 1975, and frequently attended the festival.

HHH ‘in top form’ for Turkey Day visit

Sen. Hubert Humphrey, grand-master at the Turkey Day parade, rode with local DFL candidates Francis Judge and Ben VanderKooi at the head of the parade Saturday afternoon. Stopping the parade momentarily, he posed for a picture with a young admirer, moved on to the parade’s end and assumed the position of guest of honor on the viewing stand in front of the courthouse.

Hubert H. Humphrey

Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey was the featured speaker at King Turkey Day in 1972.

Nobles County Historical Society

Aides said he was rested from the grueling, disappointing struggle for the 1972 presidential nomination. But the apparent end to future chances for a presidential nomination have not resulted in any diminishing of the senator’s frenzied activities.

“He’s in better health and more relaxed than he’s been since I started working with him when he was Vice President,” his aide said. “But he’s still going full blast with 14-hour days, a tremendous amount of activity in the Senate and an exhaustive schedule within the state.”

A Turkey Day visitor 15 times since 1948, Humphrey was, in the words of his aide, “returning to his people after the disappointments of Miami.”

“I think he has realized the apex of his political career,” the aide said. “He has always been a statesman and probably will be remembered as one of the great Americans of the last 20 years. I think the role of statesman is where he sees himself now.”

The aide’s observations were echoed by Humphrey in the closing words of his 20-minute speech. “I’ve had a great public life,” he said emotionally to the 300 listeners in front of the viewing stand. “No man could have had more than I have had in the service of his country; no man could have asked for more.”

The words came at the end of the 61 year-old senator’s speech on the economic problems of rural America. Long an advocate of a reorganization of the Department of Agriculture, Humphrey proposed the expansion of federal rural credit, making it available to private and public borrowers unable to get credit from commercial sources…

“The exodus of people out of rural America to the cities has caused a national crisis; 75% of our people are now crowded into 2% of the land. Every six family farms we lose in rural Minnesota means that one small business will die. That is the reason for the empty business buildings we often see, the diminishing services and the skyrocketing property taxes in most of our rural communities.”

“We must develop policies that allow people to have a realistic choice about where they will live and work, not a choice dictated by a lack of jobs in rural areas, or by inadequate medical facilities, or a lack of good schools and libraries.”

“What Congress does will matter very little unless the unending political war between rural and urban interests begins to cool off,” he continued, and then added optimistically: “The decision at hand is the nation’s destiny; we must make it work, we will make it work. Our destiny is in our hands: We must rejuvenate, revitalize and modernize the vast areas of rural America; it is something we must face together as Americans.”

Saturday was a long day for the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but he must have enjoyed his appearance here. His final comment on King Turkey Day came as he boarded his airplane home.

“I’m inviting myself back next year.”

Jesse Jackson’s Turkey Day speech

Jesse Jackson

Presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson hoists up a turkey after speaking at the 1986 King Turkey Day.

(Globe archives)

Let me express my profound thanks to you for being good enough to invite me here to share with you on this Turkey Day festivity. Since this event began the year I was born, there must be some destiny in this occasion. Maybe I was the original turkey, just come here to claim my stake in this situation, trapped somewhere between Worthington and Texas — and that’s quite a trap.

We have today a great expression of the true spirit of our nation as I watch you stand in this street, so much joy and celebration in your faces.

As I look at closed-down businesses, look at 112 companies that are now off the radio station because they cannot advertise any more, if you were a weaker people, if you were not a spiritual people, if you were not a God-fearing people, if you had no faith and therefore had no hope, you would give up and drown in your tears.

Somehow, you have a resolve born of our faith that nothing breaks your spirit. I suppose that’s my appeal to so many of our people who are now committing suicide in the face of the crisis. Do not let the forces of evil break our spirits.

To be the leader of the free world, we must have the will to do justice and love mercy in our government and for our God.

Ten percent of our society owns 70% of the wealth; 90% percent owns 30%. That’s unAmerican. That’s not economic democracy. The top 40% of our society is making 68% of the income and they get a tax cut. The bottom 40% is making 15.7% and they get a wage cut and a plant closing. That is not fair.

Ventura doesn’t disappoint

WORTHINGTON — The King Turkey Day Committee selected Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Jesse Ventura as guest speaker believing he would offer a huge appeal.

Well, the crowds showed up Saturday, and Ventura, never shy to speak his mind, didn’t disappoint.

“I can remember wrestling with Adrian Adonis in a tag team match in Worthington and we kicked ass, or at least that was what I was told,” said Ventura Saturday. “And that is what we (Worthington) will do to that Texican bird, send him back a loser.”

Ventura admits to a unique career, following his birth in south Minneapolis.

For six years, he served with the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL team, with a tour in Vietnam, an 11-year pro-wrestling career, served four years as mayor of Brooklyn Park, a broadcaster for 11 years and currently is a radio talk show host.

“I’m proud of my careers, which basically involve serving the public,” said Ventura.

He takes his political ambition to be Minnesota’s next governor seriously.

Ventura is fed up with today’s politics and politicians, the status quo and people telling him “that is the way it has always been done.”

Ventura believes people should be given the choice of more than two political parties, because the Democrats and Republicans aren’t listening to who is the most important — the people.

“People will tell you that a vote for Jesse Ventura is a wasted vote, but the definition of a wasted vote is not voting your conscience,” Ventura stated. “I will win this race for governor. And if the Legislature brings me a bill that is good for Minnesota, I will sign. If it is a bill that is not good for Minnesota, I will veto it, regardless of which party authored it. Vote your conscience.”

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