A Very Thankful Turkey

Thank You, President
Posted on 11/18/2022
Lucky Turkey


by Noah Killeen, managing editor

In today's polarized political climate, it is difficult to find topics on which all Presidents agree. Yet, there is one event that all political leaders and reporters support: the annual presidential pardon for a turkey. Despite 46 million turkeys serving as excellent entrees on Thanksgiving dinners, one bird instead receives national support and a moment with the Commander in Chief. 

There are many debates on who officially started the turkey pardoning tradition. Some suggest that the holiday dates back to President Lincoln’s request to let his farm’s turkey live because his son treated the bird as a pet. Since the 1870s, people have been sending the White House poultry gifts on Thanksgiving as a sign of patriotism and support for their work. Many gifts include turkeys and other signs of appreciation.

Many people believed that President Harry S. Truman began this annual practice because he was the first president to receive a turkey from the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation, but this isn’t the case. A photograph captured Truman accepting the turkey with open arms, and most assumed that the turkey was a guest at the White House and not a dinner. However, a Washington Post article quickly debunked this theory when they displayed another photo - this time of the same turkey being eaten by the Truman family!

While President John F. Kennedy only unofficially pardoned a turkey and posed for a photo with it (while the turkey had a bib reading “Good Eatin' Mr. President”), he didn’t start the tradition either. Many Presidents posed for photos with turkeys while bringing them to the White House for a tour around the building; then, they stuffed and ate them in the afternoon. Quite the betrayal. 

However, the observance was made official by President George H.W Bush in 1989 after President Reagan started the practice of sending at least one turkey to a children’s farm on Thanksgiving. Since then, every president has spared at least one turkey’s life during the holiday season. 

If you are ready to witness this tradition, President Biden will be pardoning two turkeys from North Carolina on November 21. After polarizing midterm elections, this will be a fantastic way to bring Americans together for another celebration of the event.



Lee, Hank. “Biden to Pardon North Carolina Turkeys for Thanksgiving.” Wcnc.com, 15 Nov. 2022, https://www.wcnc.com/article/life/holidays/president-joe-biden-white-house-turkey-north-carolina-pardon-thanksgiving-2022-circle-s-ranch/275-c6aca837-fb87-4305-a47a-42de6ad10f37.

“Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey.” WHHA (En-US), https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey.

“The Real Story behind the Presidential Turkey Pardon.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-real-story-behind-the-presidential-turkey-pardon.