On Wednesday, President Obama pardoned both National Thanksgiving Turkeys, named Mac and Cheese, ahead of Thursday’s holiday.
The traditional pardon began in 1989, under former President George H.W. Bush, and has continued annually since then. Beginning with former President Harry S. Truman in 1947, presidents were presented with a turkey each Thanksgiving, but there was no definitive action taken; some presidents cooked and ate the turkeys while others pardoned them, sending them off to zoos or farms.
“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month,” said Obama. “Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me, to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.”
The National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, and Chairman Gary Cooper were at the event to present the turkeys to Obama. The Federation typically takes part in the yearly event in providing the turkeys or contributing in some fashion. The turkeys this year were raised by the Federation Chairman’s son, Cole Cooper.
Individuals had the opportunity to vote on which turkey would be spared; the turkey, named Cheese, won. However, two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, will live at an estate in Virginia on 10,000 acres.
Obama quoted Benjamin Franklin and the significance of the trademark Thanksgiving animal.
“I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.”
There were two turkeys mentioned that will go to a local food pantry in the D.C. Area from Jaindl Turkey Farm in Pennsylvania as part of the ceremonial events.
“I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it's nice once in a while just to say: Happy Thanksgiving. And this is a great excuse to do it,” said Obama in response to news media outlets questioning of the tradition.
Obama concluded by reminding everyone the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday and to remember those who are currently serving overseas.
“Tomorrow is a pretty special moment when we give thanks for the people we love, and where we're mindful of the incredible blessings that we have received,” said Obama. “We remember the folks who can’t spend their holiday at home, especially the brave men and women in uniform who help keep our country secure.”
“We celebrate a holiday that, at its best, is about what makes this nation great, and that's its generosity and its openness, and, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said, our commitment, ‘to make a country in which no one is left out.’”