North America: The Presidential Turkey Pardon

President Obama Pardons a Lucky Turkey Photo © Alex Wong/Getty Images

The presidential pardoning of one lucky turkey is a fairly modern practice.  Although Abraham Lincoln could get  unofficial credit according to some historians.  Supposedly, their family had a pet turkey that Lincoln’s son viewed as a pet and asked to be spared.

President John F. Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963, just days before his assassination, but did not grant a “pardon.” The bird was wearing a sign reading, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” Kennedy responded, “Let’s just keep him.”

In 1989, George H.W. Bush became the first president to pardon a turkey. Before then, turkeys were presented to the president and consumed by the president.

The concept of a turkey pardoning was first mentioned by president Regan as a joke, but H.W. Bush made it all possible with the following words: “This fine Tom turkey, has been granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”

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