Obama Pardons His Final Turkey as POTUS
November 26, 2016
Thanksgiving is a time for family, a more-than-welcome respite from school, and a day filled with fantastic food. This holiday was first celebrated by the original inhabitants of Plymouth Rack and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. To thank the Indians for allowing them to survive a brutal winter, the Pilgrims held a three-day festival in an expression of gratitude. At this festival, which became known as the First Thanksgiving, everyone enjoyed a bountiful harvest of corn along with other delicious treats, including Native American delicacies. The first Thanksgiving did not feature the hallmark desserts that currently categorize Thanksgiving, including pies and cakes.
It took quite a while, however, for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. Following the end of the Revolutionary War, George Washington issued a “day of thanks,” but this wasn’t quite the Thanksgiving holiday we all know and love. Future presidents also gave sporadic “days of thanks,” yet Thanksgiving still was not a national holiday. Then several states began to adopt Thanksgiving as a state-recognized holiday, with New York as one of the first in 1817. It took almost 50 years of angry letters and passionate editorials to convince the national government to make it a national holiday. In the midst of the Civil War, during the year 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. Ever since Lincoln’s proclamation, Americans have happily celebrated this joyous celebration by reuniting with family members, giving thanks, and enjoying great food.
The pardoning of a turkey has an equally interesting history. Rumors of the first presidential turkey pardon occurred during Lincoln’s presidency, when his son supposedly asked his father if he could spare a turkey. For around 100 years, the presidential pardoning of the turkey was not an established tradition. Several presidents received turkeys and decided to not pardon them, like President Truman. The first documented presidential turkey pardon occurred in 1963 under President John F. Kennedy. The presidential pardoning, however, did not immediately become an established tradition after Kennedy’s turkey pardoning. Although there was pardoning in the eras of President Nixon and President Ford, this pardoning had nothing to do with turkeys. In 1989, the annual pardoning of a turkey became an established tradition under the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
President Obama, however, conducted the presidential pardoning in a way different than most. “Of course, Thanksgiving is a family holiday as much as a national one. So for the past seven years, I’ve established another tradition: embarrassing my daughters with a corny-copia of Dad jokes about turkeys,” Obama said. We’ve all got to admit it: he threw in a pretty good pun there.
Normally, Obama makes sure his children are at his side when he unleashes his “corny-copia” of what he dubs as “Dad jokes.” This year, unfortunately, his daughters had “a scheduling conflict,” so President Obama was joined in the Rose Garden by his young nephews, Austin and Aaron Robinson. His daughters shouldn’t worry, though. President Obama plans to continue this tradition even after he leaves the White House.
Here are Obama’s most noteworthy puns and jokes:
- [in regards to keeping the tradition going] “No cameras. Just us. Every year. No way I’m cutting this habit cold turkey.”
- “Yes, we cran.”
- “Let’s get this thing over with because everybody knows that Thanksgiving traffic can put everybody in a fowl mood.”
- “I want to take a moment to recognize the great turkeys who weren’t so lucky, who didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom. Who met their fate with courage and sacrifice and proved that they weren’t chicken.”
- “Tater is here in a backup role just in case Tot can’t fulfill his duties. So he’s sort of like the vice turkey. We’re working on getting him a pair of aviator glasses.”
- “We should also make sure everyone has something to eat on Thanksgiving. Of course, except the turkeys, because they’re already stuffed.”
And probably the most fitting based on the occasion:
- “Look, I know there are some bad ones in here, but this is the last time I’m doing this, so we’re not leaving any room for leftovers.”
This year, America had a tough choice between two 18 week-old birds: Tater, a turkey weighing in at an incredible 40 pounds, and Tot, a turkey at a hefty 39 pounds. Both birds were raised in Northwest Iowa and were selected via a gradual whittling process. In the name of democracy, ballots were cast via Twitter through Twitter’s polling system to determine which bird would be pardoned. After the voting concluded, the final results were 51% for “Team Tot” and 49% for “Team Tater.” However, the polls proved to be wrong. Obama chose Tater to be the humorously declared TOTUS (Turkey of the United States), and Tot was chosen as the runner up. Both turkeys were spared this Thanksgiving.
It’s pretty clear that the history of the turkey pardoning is relatively new, and is definitely subject to change. Will Obama’s “corny-copia” of jokes carry on to other presidencies? Will more turkeys be pardoned in the future? Only time will give the answers to these questions, but hopefully Obama’s bold, hilarious version of the presidential pardoning will become a tradition.