Corn was pardoned along with Cob by President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House in celebration of Thanksgiving. Photo from the White House.

President Trump Continues Tradition of Pardoning Turkey

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a ceremony that dates back to the 1940s, the presentation of the presidential turkey pardon took place this afternoon in the Rose Garden at the White House.

President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation, designating Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of public thanksgiving for the first time under the new Constitution. Thanksgiving Day became a unified national celebration under President Abraham Lincoln, who declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. In his proclamation, President Lincoln implored the war-torn nation to seek peace, harmony, and tranquility in the midst of what would become America’s deadliest war.

Presidential turkey pardon

Since then, American Presidents have often used Thanksgiving proclamations to express their hopes for peace and well-being at home and abroad. “This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice,” President Woodrow Wilson said in 1918, mere days after the end of World War I. “God has in His good pleasure given us peace. . . . Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day as well in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations.”

Some Presidents spend Thanksgiving at the White House; others celebrate at Camp David or private family residences. The menu includes traditional Thanksgiving foods along with regional favorites, depending on the preferences of the First Family.

Turkey, of course, is a staple – but not the National Thanksgiving Turkey, which traditionally receives a Presidential pardon. Turkeys have been sent as gifts to American Presidents from as early as the 1870s, sometimes arriving in elaborate crates and costumes. By the 1920s, the influx of these turkeys had increased so greatly that President Calvin Coolidge discouraged Americans from sending them, reported a 1923 New York Times article. Eventually, however, the tradition resumed, and President Coolidge received not only turkeys, but quail, ducks, geese, rabbits, and a deer.

The most unusual gift was a raccoon, which was not served for dinner but became a Coolidge family pet.

In the 1940s, farmers and manufacturers began to send birds to the White House as a means of promoting the poultry industry. Sparing the turkey from becoming dinner became a tradition under President Ronald Reagan, but President George H. W. Bush was the first to formally grant the bird a Presidential pardon, taking a cue from the animal rights activists picketing nearby.

Presidential turkey pardon

President Trump made the following statements during the ceremony for presidential pardon of two turkeys known as Corn and Cob, “On behalf of the entire Trump family, I want to wish every American a healthy and very happy Thanksgiving. We’re here today to continue a beloved annual tradition: the official presidential pardon of a very, very fortunate turkey, because Thanksgiving is a special day for turkeys — I guess, probably for the most part, not a very good one when you think about it. The first turkey to dodge the White House dinner table received unofficial clemency when President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, begged his father to spare his new friend. For the past 73 years, the National Turkey Federation has presented the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the President. Starting under President George H.W. Bush, these birds have received a formal pardon every single year. Today, it is my honor to present to you this year’s lucky bird, Corn, and, just in case we needed him, Cob. Corn and Cob. That’s not too hard to remember, is it? These two magnificent gobblers were selected from the official presidential flock of 30 turkeys, some real beauties. They were raised by the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation himself, Ron Kardel. Ron — thank you very much, Ron. Please, stand up. Great job. Ron, thank you for being here, and your family — beautiful family. Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.”