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Obama pardons ‘Courage,’ the Thanksgiving turkey

President Obama joined a long line of presidents to partake in the Thanksgiving turkey pardon tradition Wednesday, with daughters Sasha and Malia at his side.

By Staff writer / November 25, 2009

President Barack Obama is pictured alongside his daughters Malia (r.) and Sasha as he pardons "Courage", the National Thanksgiving Turkey, on the North Portico of the White House in Washington, Wednesday. National Turkey Federation Chairman Walter Pelletier (2nd l.) is also pictured.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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Washington

For Barack Obama, some days are filled with reminders as to why he ran for the presidency. There are intense discussions about national security, efforts to win votes on health care, and, at night, glamorous entertainment – like last night's state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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And then there are days like today, when a rueful Obama, performing one of the least dignified of presidential rituals, proclaimed: "I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."

This year's annual presidential pardon for a Thanksgiving turkey went off without a hitch. No flyabouts, as occurred under President Reagan. (That would be the turkey flying about, not some rogue White House aide.)

The turkey from the National Turkey Federation (NTF), named Courage, received the good news with equanimity. Raised in North Carolina, he is now flying to Disneyland, where he will serve as the grand marshall in tomorrow's Thanksgiving parade.

If there was any difference this year, it might be that this most verbal of presidents brought a sort of ... edge to the proceedings.

"Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha – because I was planning to eat this sucker – Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate," he said.

His two daughters accompanied him to the dais. Or whatever it is you call a podium with a turkey on it.

Shortly thereafter, as he actually approached the bird in question, Obama asked the NTF handlers if there was an "official gesture."

The president also announced that he had spared the life of a backup turkey, and would later today be delivering two dressed turkeys to Martha's Table, a local charity, for the poor to eat.

He then made a very bad joke, saying that, "Today we have saved or created four turkeys." The speechwriter who penned that one will probably hear about it later, considering the flat response from the audience.

Told that Courage weighed 45 pounds, Obama speculated as to how many people that might have fed.

"No performance-enhancing drugs, or anything?" he asked the turkey's handlers.

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See also:

D.C. Decoder: Obama follows turkey pardon tradition, but who started it?

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