#TBT Presidents Pardon Turkeys

A look back at the weirdest presidential tradition there is — the Thanksgiving turkey pardon. 🩃

The office of the U.S. Presidency brings with it many solemn responsibilities. This is not one of them.

The official "pardoning" of White House turkeys is an interesting White House tradition that has captured the imagination of the public in recent years. It is often stated that to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks was the origin for the pardoning ceremony. Ronald Reagan was the first to use the term pardon when he was talking turkey in 1987. The turkey pardoning became formalized in 1989, with President George H.W. Bush.

Wrangling the Turkey

The office of the Presidency, the most powerful position in the world brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities. This is not one of them. The thing about turkeys is that when somewhere between 150 and 200 of them decide to board a trailer, they all get in a single file line and jump up one at a time in a choreographed sequence as if they had been training for this moment their entire 4-month lives. Turkeys stacked upon turkeys, running, jumping, flying, all simultaneously flooding into the trailer in a mass of beaks and feathers.

The Trump White House

Trump enjoys targeting only Americans – his messages are not intended to apply to all people living in America. Advancing his self-professed policy of “nationalism” – some say, in general, white nationalism – non-citizen immigrants, regardless of legal status, are not included in his well-wishes. The President also very intentionally injected a note of religious importance into his message: “a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!”

The Obama White House

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama sent the nation a Thanksgiving message, far different from the Oval Office’s current occupant. It includes a photo of the Obama family helping to feed the needy and the homeless on the day before Thanksgiving, 2014. The message: “Today, we give thanks for our blessings, give back to those around us, and enjoy some time — and turkey, and maybe a little football — with the ones we love. From the Obama family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.”