WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation’s most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and bipartisan cheer no matter how troubled the times.
Obama pardoned “Abe,” the 2015 national Thanksgiving turkey, during a ceremony Wednesday in the Rose Garden. Abe gobbled right on cue as Obama finished his absolution.
Don’t fret for “Honest,” though, the second bird who was nearby if off camera. Both turkeys will spend their remaining days living it up on a Virginia farm.
The birds hail from California, are 18 weeks old and weigh in at about 42 pounds each. The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions entered by school children in California. Honest has a red face and neck, while Abe’s crown features more extensive blue splotches.
Obama referred to Abe as TOTUS, or Turkey of the United States.
“America is, after all, a country of second chances and this turkey has earned a second chance to live out the rest of his life comfortably on 1,000 acres of open land complete with a barn called the ‘the White House on Turkey Hill,’ which actually sounds pretty good,” Obama said.
George H.W. Bush was the first president to formally pardon a Thanksgiving turkey, though stories of spared turkeys date back to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.
The National Turkey Federation is the turkey supplier for the event. The trade group and others have been providing turkeys for the first family going back to President Harry Truman, though not all of the birds provided over the years shared a similar reprieve from the White House dinner table.
Obama was accompanied at the event by his daughters, Malia and Sasha. They didn’t look thrilled at last year’s turkey pardoning, and Obama thanked them for once against standing with him.
“They do this solely because it makes me feel good, not because they actually think that this is something I should be doing,” Obama said. “As you get older, you appreciate when your kids just indulge you like this.”
The event is typically filled with turkey jokes, “As you may have heard, for months there’re has been fierce competition between a bunch of turkeys trying to win their way into the White House,” Obama said.
Obama recognized that perhaps he’d told one too many at one point, when he noted that Honest was in an undisclosed location, ready to serve as TOTUS, if necessary. “Oh, boy,” Obama sighed.
After the ceremony, the Obama family served a traditional Thanksgiving meal to homeless veterans and others at a Washington, D.C., church.