The Presidential Turkey Pardon

  • 01 of 05

    Alll About the Turkey Pardon: A White House Thanksgiving Tradition

    Obama Turkey Pardon
    Alex Wong/Getty Images

    The presidential turkey pardon is an interesting White House tradition that has captured the attention of the public in recent years. Live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents since the Lincoln administration. The turkey pardon ceremony has been said to date back to 1947, when President Harry Truman received a turkey as a gift from the National Turkey Federation. The Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of this.

    In 1987, President Ronald Reagan informally issued a "pardon" to a turkey and sent him to a petting zoo. It wasn't until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, that a turkey was officially pardoned. Each year since, the President has formally pardoned a turkey and spares it from ending up on the Thanksgiving table. A pardoning ceremony is held each year in the White House Rose Garden a day or two before the national holiday.

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  • 02 of 05

    President Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

    Presidential Turkey Pardon
    Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Handlers keep a 20-week old and 45-pound turkey named 'Courage' moving in a limited area during a presidential pardon at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC. The presidential pardoning of a turkey has been a long time Thanksgiving tradition dating back to the Truman administration. The turkey is randomly selected by the National Turkey Federation chairperson and the White House staff. It is  trained to handle loud noises, flash photography and large crowds.

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  • 03 of 05

    Obama Family Attends Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony

    Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
    Malia Obama, daughter of U.S. President Barack Obama, pats a turkey named 'Courage' as her sister Sasha and Walter Pelletier, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation look on during a presidential pardon at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC.
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  • 04 of 05

    National Turkeys: Popcorn and Caramel

    Turkeys at Morven Park
    Rachel Cooper

    Pardoned turkeys have been sent to live the rest of their lives at petting zoos and to attractions such as Disney World in Florida. The most recent presidential pardoned turkeys have found their home at Morven Park, the historic estate in Northern Virginia which is operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation.  


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  • 05 of 05

    George W. Bush Pardons the National Turkey on Thanksgiving

    George W. Bush Pardons the National Turkey
    ImageCatcher News Service

    National Turkey Federation chairman Ted Seger carries 'May, the National Turkey, ' as President George W. Bush watches, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. The pardoning of the National Turkey is a White House tradition that takes place before a day or two before the Thanksgiving national holiday.