Thanksgiving: First White House turkey pardon was overseen in 1963 by President John F Kennedy
In the spirit of a cherished Thanksgiving tradition, President Joe Biden pardoned two turkeys, named Liberty and Bell, on Monday at the White House, ensuring their exemption from this year’s Thanksgiving feast.
The birds, hailing from a farm in Minnesota, were revealed at a news conference in Washington’s Willard InterContinental Hotel on Sunday, drawing crowds and camera flashes.
Liberty and Bell, part of the “Presidential Flock” hatched more than four months ago in Willmar, Minn., were trained to acclimate to crowds, cameras, music, and loud noises ahead of their public introduction. Named in homage to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the turkeys retired to a comfortable double-bed suite after their grand entrance.
Apart from the light-hearted atmosphere, the event also spotlighted the agricultural industry and the efforts of turkey farmers, as emphasised by Steve Lykken, NTF chairman and president of Jennie-O Turkey Store. The pardoned turkeys are set to be housed at the University of Minnesota after leaving Washington.
Reflecting on the significance of the event, Lykken stated, “This event certainly for us is an opportunity to recognise the really hard work of turkey farmers and men and women throughout animal agriculture and the turkey industry, and this is no exception.”
The tradition of pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys has a debated historical origin. Some attribute it to President Harry S Truman in 1947, while others speculate that President Abraham Lincoln may have granted reprieve to a turkey in 1863, though the White House considers this story a legend. The first documented turkey pardon occurred in 1963 by President John F Kennedy, gaining broader popularity in 1989 when President George HW Bush vindicated a turkey.
Last year, Biden continued the tradition with humor and amnesty for turkeys named Chocolate and Chip.