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 Home > News & Policies > November 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 19, 2001

President Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey
Remarks by the President At Annual Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey
The Rose Garden

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1:48 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all.  Please be seated.  Good afternoon, and welcome to the White House.  I'm not going to speak too long, because our guest of honor looks a little nervous.  Nobody's told him yet that I'm going to give him a pardon.

We're especially glad that so many of the young can come today.  Thank you all for being here.  In a few moments, you can come up and pet the turkey if you want to.

After pardoning a turkey from the Thanksgiving dinner table, President George W. Bush invites children to pet Liberty, the freed bird. "Through the generations, our country has known its share of hardships. And we've been through some tough times, some testing moments during the last months," said President Bush. "Yet, we've never lost sight of the blessings around us: the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the many gifts of our prosperous land.". White House photo by Susan Sterner. Nick Weaver and Stuart Procter of the National Turkey Foundation are here, and I want to thank you both for being here.  Honored you're here. Actually, you probably don't know this, but there were two turkeys brought to Washington for this occasion.  By custom, an alternate is always on hand to fill in if needed.

This one right here -- his name is Liberty.  And the other turkey, the alternate, his name is Freedom.  Now, Freedom is not here because he's in a secure and undisclosed location.  (Laughter.)

This White House tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln.  Probably what you don't know is that Abraham Lincoln had a son named Tad who kept a turkey as a pet.  I thought about trying to keep the turkey as a pet, but I don't think the two dogs and the cat would like it.

From our very beginnings, gratitude has been a part of our national character.  Through the generations, our country has known its share of hardships.  And we've been through some tough times, some testing moments during the last months.  Yet, we've never lost sight of the blessings around us:  the freedoms we enjoy, the people we love, and the many gifts of our prosperous land.

On this holiday, we give thanks for our many blessings and for life itself.  Thanksgiving reminds us that the greatest gifts don't come from the hands of man, but from the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

These week American families will gather in that spirit.  We will remember, too, those who approach the holidays with a burden of sadness. We think especially of families that recently lost loved ones, and of our men and women in the Armed Forces serving far away from home.

This is a nation of many faiths.  And this holiday season, we'll all be joined in prayer that those who mourn will find comfort; that those in dangers will find protection; and that God will continue to watch over the land we love.

I now have the duty of ending the suspense of our feathery guest.  For this turkey and his traveling companion, this will not be their last Thanksgiving.  They will live out their days in comfort and care of Kidwell Farm of Herndon, Virginia.  By virtue of an unconditional presidential pardon, they are safe from harm.

May God continue to bless America, and I hope everybody has a happy Thanksgiving.  Thank you for coming.  We'll go over and see the turkey. (Applause.)

END        1:52 P.M. EST