Barack Obama photo

Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony

November 23, 2011

Hello, everybody! Well, it is wonderful to see all of you here today. Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome to the White House.

Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It's a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company. But it's also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. [Laughter] They don't have it so good.

The rare exception, of course, are the two birds who've joined me today. Now, is Peace here or just Liberty? Just Liberty is here, but Peace is back here somewhere. Some of you may know that recently I've been taking a series of executive actions that don't require congressional approval. [Laughter] Well, here's another one. We can't wait to pardon these turkeys. [Laughter] Literally. Otherwise they'd end up next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing.

I want to thank Richard Huisinga, the chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and his wonderful family for donating this year's turkey from his farm in Willmar, Minnesota. The turkey's name is Liberty--there he is--and along with his understudy named Peace, he has the distinction of being the luckiest bird on the face of the Earth. Right now he's also probably one of the most confused. [Laughter]

Liberty was chosen from a flock of about 30 other contestants for the honor of being here today. And for the first time in history, these two turkeys were raised by four students from nearby Willmar High School.

Now, I'm told that in order to prepare Liberty and Peace for their big day, the students exposed them to loud noises and flashbulbs so that they'd be ready to face the White House press corps. This is actually true. They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything. [Laughter]

So Liberty is ready for his turn in the spotlight. And after he finishes a round of cable hits and a few Sunday shows, he's going to retire to a life of leisure at Mount Vernon, the same place where George Washington spent his golden years.

And later today Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I will also be taking two unnamed turkeys, who weren't so lucky, to a local food bank here in DC that helps those in need. And I want to thank the folks at Jaindl's Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating these dressed birds for the third year in a row.

A great writer once called Thanksgiving the "one day that is ours . . . the one day that is purely American."

When we gather around our tables tomorrow to share the fruits of our blessings, let's remember what that means. Let's be grateful for what we have. Let's be mindful of those who have less. Let's appreciate those who hold a special place in our lives and make sure that they know it. And let's think about those who can't spend the holiday with their loved ones, especially the members of our military serving overseas. I'd like to thank all our men and women in uniform and their families for their incredible service and devotion.

And that's what being an American is all about. Even when times are tough, we look out for each other. We lift each other up. And we remind ourselves just how lucky we are here, together, in the greatest country on Earth.

So from our family to yours, I want to wish everybody a wonderful and happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

And now, since Liberty and Peace have been so patient, it is my privilege to grant them the official pardon. And I'm going to--I've got to give them a little symbol. [Laughter]

[At this point, the President made a hand gesture and pardoned the turkey.]

You are hereby pardoned. [Laughter] Give him a round of applause.

Note: The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. on the North Portico at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Brianna Hoover, Brenna Ahlquist, Val Brown, and Preston Asche, students, Willmar High School in Willmar, MN.

Barack Obama, Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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