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November 2009
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President Obama Pardons White House Turkey

“There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland,” President Obama told a crowd of onlookers huddled under the White House portico on a drizzly November morning.
They were gathered to see him spare “Courage,” a plump white bird who gobbled for mercy on cue, from the dinner table.
Obama credited daughters Sasha and Malia, who accompanied him on this official duty, for the act of mercy. “I was planning to eat this sucker,” the president joked, as the crowd laughed appreciatively and Courage, raised in Goldsboro, N.C., craned his blue head around nervously.

The president went on to give a few serious remarks on the meaning of “this quintessentially American holiday,” wishing a special Happy Thanksgiving to “every service member at home or in harm’s way.”
He also acknowledged the difficult economy, which he said is “emerging from an extraordinary recession.”
“There’s no question this has been a tough year for America,” Obama said. But he recalled that it was President Abraham Lincoln who first established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the midst of the Civil War.
“When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever,” the president said.
The president concluded by posing for pictures with Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Joel Brandenberger, the federation president, members of their families and Courage. The president gingerly stroked the bird, who tomorrow will serve as grand marshal of Disney’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Obama said that the tradition of turkey deliveries to the White House dates to the 1950s but that presidential clemency came later. “I understand Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys,” the president said. He said President John Kennedy was the first to spare his bird and that President George H.W. Bush was the first to issue a presidential turkey pardon.

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