Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony
Good afternoon, everyone. Please be seated. I'm honored to welcome you, for the first time as President, to a Thanksgiving tradition here at the White House that reminds us to have a little bit of fun and to always be grateful.
You know, as a University of Delaware man, I'm partial to Blue Hens, but today we're going to talk turkey.
To the families of my staff, thank you for joining us, for being part of our team.
And thank you, Pete [Phil]* Seger, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, for continuing the tradition of presenting the turkey to the President that goes back to President Truman.
[At this point, the turkeys gobbled.]
Yes. [Laughter] Yes. And pardoning the turkey goes back to George H.W. Bush.
I just met your wonderful family: Your wife Krista, who volunteers to get kids vaccinated back home in Jasper—thank you very much for doing that—and your incredible children: 12-year-old Addie and 10-year-old Ellie and 9-year-old Jack. And, Addie and Ellie, I tell you, if you—your parents will understand—the reason I ran for President is so my grandchildren your age could have Secret Service protection—because you're lovely young women, and you're—young man.
Look, and a special thanks to the students at Ellie and Jack's school in Jasper who submitted the names of these two fine turkeys, two names that I couldn't agree on more. Who better to help celebrate the holiday in which we break the bread for two turkeys named Peanut Butter and Jelly? [Laughter] I have to admit to you—my wife doesn't like to admit it—that's what I like for lunch: peanut butter and jelly.
But I also want to thank the farmers who were selected by the National Turkey Federation to raise what's called the "Presidential Flock." That's a group of 20 or so turkeys vying to make it here today. In other words, the turkey Presidential primary. [Laughter]
And so I just met—[laughter]—Andrea and Brad Welp, third- and fifth-generation farmers from St. Anthony, Indiana. And they're here with their 5-year-old son, Benton, and their 2-year-old daughter, Brogan, who wonders, "Why do I have to be here, Mommy?" [Laughter]
Since July, they've been preparing the flock for this day. And I'm told the turkeys even listen to music to get used to the crowd noise. And they've interacted with children and visitors to get used to the—their visit to Washington. And eventually, Peanut Butter and Jelly were selected based on their temperament, appearance, and, I suspect, vaccination status. I—[laughter].
[The turkeys gobbled.]
Oh, you see? [Laughter] Yes, instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted. [Laughter]
[The turkeys gobbled.]
[Laughter] Yes. [Laughter] I love them talking to me like this.
This week, they were welcomed on the red carpet at a fancy hotel here in Washington called the Willard hotel, next door. Secretary Buttigieg couldn't be here today, but I'm sorry for Pete and Chasten: Peanut Butter and Jelly are now the new Indiana power couple. [Laughter]
And Andrea and Brad, thank you for pouring your love and pride into this work and this national tradition. And Benton and Brogan, I know you're going to miss your favorite turkeys, but the good news is, you'll still be able to visit them.
After receiving their Presidential pardon, Peanut Butter and Jelly will be headed to Purdue University—West Lafayette—in West Lafayette, Indiana, where they'll be—visit something close to my heart—a train: the Boilermaker Special. That's where they're going to be.
So, folks, turkey is infrastructure. Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help Build Back the Butterball as we move along. [Laughter]
And so I hereby—I'm going to walk over. I'm going to pardon this year's turkeys—the National Thanksgiving turkey. And the first one—the one who is going to pardoned is Peanut Butter, who should be able to uphold his duties. And also hereby, I'm going to—in case that changes, I'm going to also pardon his alternative, Jelly.
Folks, as I've said before, every American wants the same thing: They want to be able to look the turkey in the eye and tell him everything's going to be okay. [Laughter] And so, folks, it's going to be okay.
In all seriousness, it's important to continue traditions like this to remind us how from darkness there is light and hope and progress. And that's what this year's Thanksgiving, in my view, represents.
So many of us will be gathering with our loved ones for the first time in a long time, and we'll be reconnecting with traditions, with our tables and our hearts full of grace and gratitude for everyone who made it possible: scientists, researchers, doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers who developed and administered the vaccines and kept essential services going; faith leaders and community leaders who counsel, comfort, and heal; farmers, farmworkers, meatpackers who risked their lives during this pandemic to grow, process, and pick the food that's on our tables.
And on Monday, my wife Jill and I will be traveling to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for an early Thanksgiving with the troops and their military families. We'll be able to show the Nation's gratitude for their service and sacrifice and welcome those coming home after 20 years in Afghanistan.
But, folks, as we give thanks for what—we also keep in our hearts those who we have lost—have lost so much, those who will have empty seats at their tables this year because of the virus or another cruel twist of fate or accident. The grief they have is—there is a lot of grief that's deep, that tears at the hearts afresh on every holiday. We pray for them to find the strength in sorrow and purpose in pain.
And as we reclaim our cherished traditions, let's commit ourselves to what the Psalmist wrote—said, "The Lord is my shield and my strength . . . and with my song I give Him thanks." Let our song be ones of lives saved, breaches repaired, a nation made whole. And that's the America I know: a great Nation because we are good people.
You, the American people, I forever am grateful for your trust you placed in me.
And from the Biden family to yours, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
And may bless—God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
And may—let's get to the business of the pardon. Thank you.
That's a big turkey. With the power vested in me as President of the United States, I pardon you. I pardon you this Thanksgiving.
Go ahead, say something. [Laughter]
[The turkey gobbled.]
There you go. [Laughter] "Thanks for the pardon."
But I also have to pardon—I have to pardon Jelly too. Jelly, you don't have to get up here, but I pardon you, kid. Yes.
Thank you, everybody. I hope you have a happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving. And it's freezing, isn't it? [Laughter]
All right. Thank you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Chasten Glezman, husband of Secretary of Transportation Peter P.M. Buttigieg.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353498