National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year shortly before Thanksgiving. The President of the United States is presented with a live domestic turkey, usually of the Broad Breasted White variety. Generally the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board are involved. Since 1989 during the first Thanksgiving of President George H. W. Bush, the president has granted the turkey a "presidential pardon" and thus spared the bird from being slaughtered.
History and details of ceremony
President Harry S. Truman
receiving a non-pardoned Thanksgiving turkey from members of the Poultry and Egg National Board and other representatives of the turkey industry, outside the White House on November 16, 1949.
The origins of the tradition of pardoning the White House turkey are unclear. Many credit President Harry Truman with starting the informal and lighthearted tradition in 1947. However, the Truman Library says that no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs or other contemporary records are known to exist that specify that he ever "pardoned" a turkey. The Eisenhower Presidential Library says documents in their collection reveal that President Dwight Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him during his two terms. President John F. Kennedy spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 18, 1963, just three 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." President Ronald Reagan deflected questions in 1987 about pardoning Oliver North in the Iran-Contra affair by joking about pardoning a turkey named Charlie, who was already heading to a petting zoo.
Since 1989 when the custom of 'pardoning' the turkey was formalized, the turkey has been taken to a farm where it will live out the rest of its natural life. For many years the turkeys were sent to Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. From 2005 to 2009, the pardoned turkeys were sent to either the Disneyland Resort in California or the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, where they served as the honorary grand marshals of Disney's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2010 and 2011, the turkeys were sent to live at Mount Vernon, the estate and home of George Washington.
The turkeys are raised in the same fashion as turkeys designated for slaughter, but are selected "at birth" for pardoning and are trained to handle loud noises, flash photography and large crowds. Because most Thanksgiving turkeys are bred and raised for size at the expense of longer life, they are prone to health problems associated with obesity such as heart disease, respiratory failure and joint damage. As a result of these factors, most of the pardoned turkeys have very short lives after their pardoning, frequently dying within a year of being pardoned.
List of turkeys pardoned
President Barack Obama
grants the traditional turkey pardon to Liberty during the ceremony at the North Portico of the White House on November 23, 2011.
- 2002: George W. Bush pardoned the first-ever female turkey in the ceremony, Katie, a 30-pound bird bred by Ron Prestage, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, as well as alternate bird Zack. The turkeys were named after Prestage's children.
- 2003: Bush pardoned Stars and back up Stripes 
- 2004: Bush pardoned Biscuits and back up Gravy.
- 2005: Bush pardoned Marshmallow and alternate bird Yam, raised in Henning, Minnesota. Beginning 2005 pardoned birds were sent to Disneyland to live, and serve as the "honorary grand marshal" of that year's thanksgiving day parade, following concerns raised by animal rights objections that the birds had not survived for long. For the previous 15 years they had been sent to Frying Pan Park near Herndon, Virginia. Names were generally chosen in online votes taken at the White House website.
- 2006: Bush pardoned Flyer and alternate bird Fryer, raised in Missouri.
- 2007: Bush pardoned 45-pound May and backup Flower, raised in Indiana.
- 2008: Bush pardoned 45-pound backup "vice" turkey named Pumpkin, after the number one turkey Pecan fell ill the night before the ceremony. Both turkeys were allowed to live.
- 2009: Barack Obama pardoned Courage, a 45-pound turkey provided by the National Turkey Federation, and alternate bird Carolina, raised in North Carolina.
- 2010: Obama pardoned Apple, and alternate bird Cider. Both had died of natural causes by Thanksgiving 2011.
- 2011: Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Liberty and an alternate bird named Peace, both of which were raised in Willmar, Minnesota.
- 2012: Obama pardonned Cobbler and Gobbler, both 40-pound turkeys from Rockingham County, Virginia. 
A number of U.S. states have similar turkey-pardoning events, including Minnesota.
President Gerald Ford accepting a non-pardoned turkey, 1975.
President George H.W. Bush at the 3rd annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey, 1991.
President Bill Clinton at the 10th annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey, 1999.
President George W. Bush at the 19th annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey, 2008.
- ^ a b c Hesse, Monica. 2007. Turkey Pardons, The Stuffing of Historic Legend. The Washington Post, November 21. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/20/AR2007112002331.html?sub=AR&sid=ST2007112002354 (accessed November 22, 2007).
- ^ Edwards, Cynthia. 2003. Did Truman pardon a Turkey? http://www.trumanlibrary.org/trivia/turkey.htm (accessed November 24, 2007).
- ^ a b Fox, Lauren (November 23, 2011). 2010 Turkeys Pardoned By Obama Died This Year. U.S. News. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- ^ Elisabeth Bumiller (2002-11-27). "In New Spin on Tradition, Turkey Pardon Goes to 'Katie'". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/27/us/in-new-spin-on-tradition-turkey-pardon-goes-to-katie.html.
- ^ "Pardoned turkeys may not live happily ever after". cnn. 2002-11-26. http://articles.cnn.com/2003-11-24/politics/turkey_1_turkey-stars-and-stripes-pardons?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS.
- ^ "Bush sends pardoned turkeys to Disneyland". New Zealand Herald. 2005-11-23. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10356590.
- ^ "Bush Pardons Turkeys, But PETA Wants Better After-Care". Fox News. 2006-11-22. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,231380,00.html.
- ^ "Bush Gobbles Up Tradition In Turkey Pardon:Turkeys Head To Disney World". KERO. 2007-11-20. http://www.turnto23.com/news/14649745/detail.html.
- ^ "Bush pardons Thanksgiving turkey". Associated Press. 2008-11-26. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27929026/wid/7468326/.
- ^ Manuel Roig-Franzia (2008-11-27). "Thankfully, Bush Never Had an Ax To Grind". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/26/AR2008112602556.html.
- ^ Peter Grier (2009-11-25). "Obama pardons ‘Courage,’ the Thanksgiving turkey". Christian Science Monitor. http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/11/25/obama-pardons-%E2%80%98courage%E2%80%99-the-thanksgiving-turkey/.
- ^ Heim, Joe (2010-11-25). "At White House, President Obama's pardons prevent turkeys' 'shellacking'". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/24/AR2010112402826.html.
- ^ Boyer, Dave (November 23, 2011). Obama pardons turkey — unilaterally. The Washington Times. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- ^ Obama to pardon Thanksgiving turkey. Associated Press. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
- ^ President Obama Pardons Turkey. United Press International, Inc. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
- ^ Cassie Crowe & Becky Nahm (2009-11-24). "Turkey Celebrates Pardon at State Capitol". kstp. http://kstp.com/news/stories/S1274347.shtml?cat=206.