WASHINGTON, DC – Later today, President Obama will pardon a turkey! Where does the tradition come from?
Today, President Barack Obama will participate in the annual White House Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon. A turkey is brought onto stage, where it is “pardoned” from the annual Thanksgiving slaughter. It is then shipped off to Disneyland where it will live out it’s life.
The ceremony did not actually start out as a pardon. It was merely the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, where the President was given a live turkey to eat!
It is unclear when the tradition began, but Presidents have taken different actions throughout the years. Eisenhower ate all the turkeys presented during his two terms, while Kennedy merely excused his turkey without an official “pardon”.
It was during the first Thanksgiving of George H.W. Bush’s term in 1989 that the pardoning became a tradition. The turkeys were given a “presidential pardon”, and sent to a farm in Frying Pan Park in Virginia. However, since 2005, they have instead gone to Disneyland, where they serve as the honorary grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Parade!
In preparation of Obama’s first pardon, the White House has released this video preview: