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Obama Pardons “Liberty” and “Peace” Thanksgiving Turkeys

November 23, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama has granted a pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey and its alternate, saving the birds from becoming part of a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast.

President Barack Obama, with daughters, Malia and Sasha, pardons 'Liberty', the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in a ceremony on the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 23, 2011. At left is National Turkey Federation Chairman Richard Huisinga. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

At the annual White House ceremony the day before the holiday, Mr. Obama Wednesday spared the two 19-week-old, 20-kilogram turkeys from the Thanksgiving dinner table, where the bird is typically the staple food.

President Obama joked that pardoning the turkeys — named “Liberty” and “Peace” — was among a series of executive actions he has taken recently that do not require congressional approval.

Later Wednesday, Mr. Obama and his family took two other turkeys to a Washington area food bank that helps feed those in need. While there, the Obamas helped distribute food bags.

The day before Thanksgiving is usually the busiest travel day of the year in the United States, and many Americans are traveling to visit family and friends to celebrate the holiday and eat a Thanksgiving meal.

The AAA automobile and travel organization predicts that 42.5 million Americans will travel at least 80 kilometers from home in the coming days, 4 percent more than a year ago. Most of them are traveling by car.

At the pardoning ceremony, Mr. Obama said people should be thankful for what they have and remember those who have less. He also thanked members of the U.S. military for their service. His two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were with him at the event.

Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration in the 1860s. President George H. W. Bush issued the first turkey pardon 20 years ago.

Liberty and its alternate, Peace, will live near Washington at the estate of the first U.S. president, George Washington, where they will be part of a Christmas program until January.

Thanksgiving is a big day on the U.S. holiday calendar. The traditional meal on Thanksgiving is roast turkey. The National Turkey Federation says more than 45 million of the birds meet their doom in November.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the last Thursday of November to be observed as a day of thanksgiving. The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its roots to 1621, when English settlers in the Massachusetts Colony held a feast with a Native American tribe that taught the colonists how to grow food and hunt for game in their new surroundings.

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