President Barack Obama started Thanksgiving Day, perhaps the most American of holidays, at the White House with the traditional pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey.
Obama’s final turkey pardoning ceremony took place in the Rose Garden on Wednesday afternoon featuring the Iowa-raised turkeys Tater and Tot.
The White House asked Twitter users to vote for which turkey will receive the pardon, although both usually are spared by the president. The White House blog also provided a biography for each bird to help Twitter users decide. Tot emerged as the winner, making him the National Thanksgiving Turkey.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 22, 2016
And while only one can be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey, both lucky birds will be sent to their new home at Virginia Tech where they will be cared for by veterinarians and students of Virginia Tech’s Animal and Poultry Sciences Department at “Gobbler’s Rest” in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Mr. Obama gave a brief speech before approaching the birds, among other things saying:
“And it is my great privilege — well, it’s my privilege — actually, let’s just say it’s my job — to grant them clemency this afternoon. As I do, I want to take a moment to recognize the brave turkeys who weren’t so lucky, who didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom — who met their fate with courage and sacrifice — and proved that they weren’t chicken.”
You can watch the entire ceremony above.
As far back as Abraham Lincoln, presidents have spared turkeys, though President George H.W. Bush is credited with beginning the tradition of a pardon.