Well, President Obama has pardoned this year’s turkey. I love the weird American-ness of this tradition. We pardon one turkey a year so that we can feel less guilty about eating millions of its cousins. As of this year, presidents have pardoned 23 turkeys. Not a lot in the greater scheme of things, but I imagine that something is better than nothing, and I’m sure the pardoned hostage certainly feels much better about it.
How did this serious business of the Presidential pardon begin? Americans have been sending the noblest and best turkeys to the White House since the 19th century. In 1947 the National Turkey Federation delivered a 47# monster. Probably enough turkey meat to feed the entire Congress. Imagine the stiff competition between turkey farmers to have their Tom or Thomasina chosen? I can just picture the midnight forays into the neighbor’s barnyard to spy on the sleeping livestock.
President Lincoln’s son Tad begged his father to offer a presidential pardon to the feathered gift. John F. Kennedy sent that year’s gift back “to grow a little”. President George H.W. Bush was the first to actually “pardon” the turkey, which has become the coveted hope of at least one turkey a year. President Obama announced that he was “going to eat this sucker”!
Unbeknownst to the general public, the dinner table athletes destined for the White House are chosen at a very young age. The overly nervous and misshapen ones are culled, and a select few are groomed and trained for their final appearance. Music is played, and the noise of people talking, laughing, clapping is broadcast constantly so that the turkeys won’t be spooked when brought in for their performance. Imagine the confusion a large live turkey could cause by leaping off the stage into a spectator’s lap! So just as show animals of any breed are trained, so too it the glorious White House turkey.
Our kindly and generous bird is ready to brave the heat of the oven, the pumpkin and apple pies and blackberry cobbler are waiting, and the house is sparkling. The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are on their way, so we are ready to celebrate the importance of a day to be thankful for all we have been blessed with. May there be love and peace in your hearts.