President pardons turkeys in annual White House tradition

Carrying out a presidential tradition that dates back to Abraham Lincoln, President Obama pardoned two turkeys — named Liberty and Peace — on the White House lawn Wednesday morning.

"Some of you may know that recently I’ve been taking a series of executive actions that don’t require congressional approval — well, here’s another one," the president joked. "We can’t wait to pardon these turkeys."

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The birds were donated by Richard Huisinga, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and came from Willmar, Minn. The birds were raised by students at a nearby high school, who trained them not to respond to the loud noises and flashbulbs that accompany the annual tradition.

"They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything," Obama joked.

Liberty and Peace will now travel to George Washington's estate at Mt. Vernon to live out "a life of leisure," said Obama.

"Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company. But it’s also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. They don’t have it so good," the president joked.

The first presidential turkey pardon was issued by President Lincoln, who offered reprieve to a pet turkey of his son Tad that was set to be served as part of a holiday meal. But when a distraught Tad broke into a Cabinet meeting sobbing, Lincoln wrote a pardon onto a card, sparing the turkey.

Later Wednesday afternoon, the Obama family will be taking dressed turkeys — "who weren't so lucky," the president quipped — to a D.C. area food bank.

"When we gather around our tables tomorrow to share the fruits of our blessings, let’s remember what that means. Let’s be grateful for what we have. Let’s be mindful of those who have less. Let’s appreciate those who hold a special place in our lives, and make sure that they know it. And let’s think about those who can’t spend the holiday with their loved ones — especially the members of our military serving overseas. I’d like to thank all our men and women in uniform and their families for their incredible service and devotion," Obama said.