Co-Managing News Editor
During the late morning of his 81st birthday, President Joe Biden paid a visit to the White House’s South Lawn to continue the 76-year tradition of pardoning two lucky turkeys from the Thanksgiving table.
This year, the spared birds hailed from Willmar, Minnesota, and were named Liberty and Bell, Biden said – a reference to the swing state of Pennsylvania.
“The national turkey presentation and pardon marks the unofficial start of the holiday season here in Washington,” the university alumnus said in his speech. “A time to share joy and gratitude and have a little bit of fun.”
Surveying over 1,000 celebrants on the meaning of Thanksgiving Day, Statista found that 67% answered that it is one “To spend time with the family” and “To be thankful,” while another 47% said Thanksgiving is for enjoying “a good meal.”
The Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving Day each year.
“These birds have a new appreciation of the word, ‘Let freedom ring,’” Biden said, met with chuckles from the audience.
He turned towards the table with a “Happy Thanksgiving” banner on his right as Liberty was lifted onto it. He raised a hand toward the two fowls – one on the ground and one on the table – and announced their absolution from becoming holiday dinner.
Liberty and Bell will live out the remainder of their lives at the University of Minnesota, Biden announced.
Before continuing his speech, he posed alongside the turkeys, smiling for photos while live musicians played “God Bless America.”
The parents and children in attendance stood on their tip-toes to see the president and the pardoned, though many only got a glimpse. Some had come clad in turkey onesies and others wore turkey leg headbands.
For D.C. local Mike Stranz, it was the first time he and his son Pete – too young to walk – had attended the annual event. As an employee of the National Farmers Union, an organization which advocates for farmer rights and well-being, he has colleagues who raise their own turkeys.
“It’s always good to see some fowl go free,” Stranz said. “Christmas music started immediately afterwards, so I guess that means it’s the holidays now.”
This year, the Stranz family will have both turkey and pork loin in their Thursday evening spread. They have potentially started their own yearly tradition of visiting the event, he said.
After the pardoning
Once the pardoning concluded, Biden made a lap of the lawn to greet some of those who came to watch.
As he came closer, one reporter asked, “Mr. President, is the hostage deal near?” in regards to the potential five-day peace agreement between Israel and Hamas which would permit the release of at least 50 captive women and children.
“I hope so,” Biden said to the media in response, raising a hand with crossed fingers.
Over the past week, the United States has been an active participant in the negotiations towards the potential deal, and Biden published a related opinion piece in the Washington Post on Saturday establishing that “The U.S. won’t back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas.”
In contrast to the lighthearted festivities of the hour, there was mention not only of the wars abroad, but also the passing of former first lady Rosalynn Carter on Sunday. Even so, Biden ended by expressing that those who inhabit the U.S. have “much to be thankful for.”
“Let’s remind ourselves that we’re blessed to live in the greatest nation on this face of the Earth,” Biden said. “ Let’s remember, we are the United States of America. And there’s nothing, nothing, nothing – I mean it sincerely – there is nothing beyond our capacity when we work together.”