As millions of Americans prepare to devour their traditional roast turkey on Thanksgiving, one lucky bird was granted a reprieve by President Barack Obama.
“As you may have heard, for months there has been a fierce competition among turkeys trying to win their way into the White House,” Obama joked Wednesday during the annual tradition in the White House Rose Garden.
He declared Abe, a 19-kilogram, 18-week-old bird, pardoned from a fate as Thanksgiving dinner and said the animal and an alternate turkey, Honest, would instead live out their days at a historic home and farm in nearby northern Virginia.
The names of the birds are drawn from Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president who led the US during the Civil War, and was nicknamed Honest Abe. The names were chosen by California school children.
“America is, after all a country of second chances, and this turkey has earned a second chance,” Obama said before waving his hand in pardon over the fluffy, white-feathered bird.
He was flanked by his daughters, Malia, 17, and Sasha, 14, who endured their father’s turkey jokes and even quipped, “That’s good,” after he noted it was the seventh time he would pardon a turkey and that “time flies, even if turkeys don’t.”
Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the White House with a live Thanksgiving turkey. Many were eaten.
The “pardon” practice dates back to 1963, when John F Kennedy, just before his assassination on November 22, returned a turkey to the farm, saying “We’ll let this one grow.”