Thankful For A Pardon: The Roots Of Presidents Saving Turkeys Each Year During Holiday Season

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By Shawn Johnson


Thanksgiving always comes with its local and national traditions, none of which are more notable in American history than the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation at the White House.

The amicable event, often referred to as the Presidential Turkey Pardon, has roots dating back as early as the 1940s. However, the ceremony only recently garnered attention in 1989, when George H. W. Bush observed his first Thanksgiving as president. Since then, the procedure has become an annual tradition for the nation’s leader to spare the bird presented to them while also putting the country into perspective.

“The Thanksgiving tradition dates back to our nation’s earlier days,” said former president George W. Bush. “We are a nation founded by men and women who deeply felt their dependence on God and always gave Him thanks and praise. As we prepare for Thanksgiving in 2004, we have much to be thankful for: our families, our friends, our beautiful country and the freedom granted to each one of us by the Almighty.”

Prior to H.W. Bush’s institution of the ceremony as a permanent Thanksgiving function, the celebration had undergone considerable inconsistency throughout the years. Some presidents like Ronald Reagan failed to honor the tradition during their term at least once, while others are rumored to have actually eaten the turkeys gifted to them.

However, H.W. Bush quickly made the decision to consistently pardon the birds in his first Thanksgiving as president, partially to accommodate the demands of animal rights activists. Future presidents have been quick to embrace the tradition, continuing the turkey day legacy with a joyous approach.

“For generations, presidents have faithfully executed two great American traditions, issuing a proclamation that sets aside a Thursday in November for us to express gratitude and granting pardons that reflect our beliefs in second chances,” said Barack Obama, former president. “And this week, we do both.”

While presidents throughout recent history have grown a love for the tradition, individuals across the country have also taken to the ceremony. Young and old, American citizens have come to enjoy the good-natured experience through the years.

“For sure, I am always looking forward to the current president pardoning the turkey,” said Kelsey Ellis, freshman. “It’s a good opportunity for them to show their lighter side and take a step back from policies for a bit.”

This year, president Donald Trump’s turkeys have already been chosen for the grand ceremony in the coming days. While they have yet to receive names, it was recently announced the selected birds will head to Virginia Tech once the celebration is over, following the path of last year’s pardoned animals Tater and Tot.

Without a doubt, the Presidential Turkey Pardon has swiftly become one of the fastest-growing traditions in American history. With its growing support from the leaders in the nation’s capital, it does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Shawn Johnson

Shawn Johnson, member of the 3.0 accelerated degree program, is a sophomore. Having grown up in Birmingham, Ala., Johnson established an unwavering love for college athletics in his youth. Wanting to connect his love for sports with his passion for writing, he has identified sports journalism as the ultimate goal of his academic endeavors at Lynn. As such, Johnson is a multimedia journalism major. Within his collegiate interests, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Fighting Knight and current ESPN reporter Lisa Kerney. Outside of iPulse, he was a contributing writer for the Palm Beach Post as well. In his second year, there is still much more in the tank for his career preparation at Lynn. All the while, he is immensely proud of the Alabama Crimson Tide for recently winning their 17th overall national championship. Thankful for the opportunities he has received thus far, Johnson is eager to grow alongside his peers in the College of Communication and Design.

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