President Obama carried on a centuries-old Thanksgiving tradition after he pardons the official White House Thanksgiving turkey at a lighthearted ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
“So in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give and it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler,” he said. Noting that the official White House turkey was selected via a “highly competitive online vote” — Gobbler was elected to be Cobbler’s alternate — he said: “The American people have spoken and these birds are moving forward.”
Striking a more serious note, the president reflected on the holiday as a “chance to spend time with the people we care about and to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy,” as well as an opportunity to “remember those who are less fortunate.”
“This year that’s particularly true for our neighbors in the Northeast who have lost their homes, possessions ,and even their loved ones to Hurricane Sandy,” he said.
After issuing the official pardon, he encouraged his daughters to pet the 19-week old, 40-lb bird. Sasha, the younger, complied; giggling, Malia kept her distance.
According to the White House’s history of turkey pardons, Americans have been giving the president holiday turkeys since the 1800s. In 1947, the White House started celebrating these gifts in the Rose Garden. Not every president has been in the habit of sparing the turkey’s life, however: Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson ate the turkeys presented to them.
According to the White House, today’s two birds were raised on the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller of Virginia, under National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen’s supervision and in partnership with the Virginia Poultry Federation.
Today’s event brings to eight, the number of turkeys President Obama has “pardoned” since taking office. That’s almost a third of the number of real pardons the president has granted.
Obama issued no pardons until the very end of his second year in office and to date, the number of pardons he’s granted stands at 22. That’s fewer than any prior president since James Garfield, who granted no pardons during his six months in office before his assassination in September 1881.