It seems that turkeys have long been considered as appropriate gifts for US presidents. In recent years it has become customary for the president to pardon the live turkey presented to him the day before Thanksgiving. But one of the earliest stories about a turkey being saved from the president’s holiday table goes back to 1863. President Abraham Lincoln was given a live turkey which was meant to be his Christmas dinner. But his son, Tad, took the bird as his pet and Abe had to issue a “stay of execution” to spare Jack the Turkey.
I imagine it went something like this:
Presidential turkey pardons
In 1947 the National Turkey Federation started an annual tradition of presenting a turkey to the White House the day before Thanksgiving. Most of these birds became presidential meals. But in 1963, when John F. Kennedy was presented with his turkey, he said, “Let’s just keep him.” He didn’t use the word “pardon”, but the newspapers reported the story as a presidential pardon. In 1989, George Bush Senior was the first US president to make an official turkey pardon. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama have all continued the tradition.
The presidential turkey and an alternate are selected as chicks and raised to be able to cope with crowds and noise in preparation for the pardoning ceremony. When they arrive in DC, they spend a relaxing night in a local hotel. Even though only one of them attends the ceremony, the next day, they are both pardoned. After the event held in the White House Rose Garden, they are sent to Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home, where they enjoy their Christmas holiday. Then they go to a farm where they live out the rest of their natural life.
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