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Pardon Me! A Short History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon.

By Stewart J. Guss on November 23rd, 2013

Although “pardon me” is heard plenty around our table after Thanksgiving dinner, we generally mean it figuratively, not literally.  While most Americans “have an axe to grind” with our giant poultry friends around this time of year, the family residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has a tradition of letting on lucky bird off the hook.  How did that tradition start?

scared turkey

According to the official White House explanation of the pardon, the tradition of sparing turkeys may go as far back as Lincoln’s presidency.  According to legend, Lincoln’s son Tad begged his father write out a presidential pardon for the turkey the family had planned to eat for Christmas dinner.  Lincoln acquiesced, and the great Lincoln gobbler survived to see another year.  (Nevermind the family’s Easter dinner the following year!)

But what of the Thanksgiving turkey pardon, in particular?  In 1963, President Kennedy was gifted with a prized turkey from the Turkey Federation of America.  Graciously declining the gift and sparing the life of the noble bird, Kennedy quipped, “We’ll just let this one grow.”  President Nixon followed on in this merciful tradition, sending the official White House turkey to a local petting zoo after the Thanksgiving photo ops.  On November 19th, 1989, President George H. W. Bush gave the first “formal” Presidential turkey pardon, although the paroled bird was sent back to live out his days in the unfortunately named “Frying Pan Park” in Herndon, VA.  (Better the frying pan than the fire?)  President Obama has pardoned several Thanksgiving turkeys, although “Courage,” the 2009 bird, barely made it in under the wire.  According to President Obama:  “Thanks to the intervention of Malia and Sasha – because I was ready to eat this sucker – Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate.”  Video of the 2010 pardon is below:

Whether or not you decide to pardon your Thanksgiving bird, we here at the offices of Houston Personal Injury Attorney Stewart J. Guss hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family.  As always, if you have any questions about a personal injury claim, please feel free to call us today for a consultation at 800-898-4877.  Remember, the call is free, and there is no charge unless we win your case.  After all, not all personal injury lawyers are turkeys!

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