President Obama's turkey pardon set for Wednesday
WASHINGTON (AP) — Liberty and Peace got a reprieve this year.
President Barack Obama has pardoned two plump turkeys in an annual holiday rite.
The official national Thanksgiving turkey is a 19-week-old, 45-pound bird named Liberty. Its alternate, also spared, is a turkey of the same age and size named Peace.
The president says that Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for people but not for turkeys. Obama said, "They don't have it so good."
Obama jokingly cast his pardon as yet another executive action in a string of his "We Can't Wait" initiatives.
The birds are from Minnesota, which will surely spur some analysis about the value of sparing turkeys from a political battleground state ahead of an election year. The motives, however, might be simpler — Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other U.S. state.
Liberty, the official national Thanksgiving turkey, and Peace, its alternate, were selected from among 30 turkeys raised and groomed in Willmar, Minn., just for a potential presidential amnesty. One of the 30 turkeys — a bird prosaically named "Ted" — flapped out of his coop Friday during a send-off ceremony with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. He was retrieved and calmed.
The White House says many of the ideas for names came from Minneapolis and St. Paul schoolchildren who studied the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to local economies.
Following the pardon ceremony at the White House, Liberty and Peace will retire to the historic home of George Washington in nearby Mount Vernon, Va. Liberty will have to endure fame and celebrity during "Christmas at Mount Vernon," a special program that runs through Jan. 6. Following the holidays, the two birds will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon's livestock facility.
The birds are larger than the average U.S.-bred turkey. According to the Agriculture Department, the U.S. turkey industry produces more than 250 million birds a year, with each live bird averaging about 25 pounds.
According to the White House, the National Turkey Federation has delivered a Thanksgiving gobbler every year since 1947. However, President George H. W. Bush was the first to offer an official turkey "pardon" in 1989.