51st Annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation
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|24 November 1998|
Good morning. Chairman Gessell, President Proctor, Walt Gislason, and all the children from the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs, welcome to all of you. I want to thank you for joining us in the Rose Garden for our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. I'd also like to thank the National Turkey Federation again for donating this year's tom turkey to the White House.
And of course, I want to acknowledge our special guest of honor, this good-looking turkey from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," Minnesota. Minnesota is the second largest turkey producing state in our nation. They have even more turkeys there than lakes. And I must say, of all the years I've been here, this is the most adventurous turkey we've ever had. Just ask him your questions. While the average turkey weighs about fifteen pounds, they tell me our friend here weighs over 45 pounds.
As all of you know, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, dating back to the Pilgrims and Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the Pilgrims sat down for Thanksgiving dinner in 1621, of course, they didn't have the usual trimmings: no potatoes, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie. In fact, they didn't even have a turkey. They feasted on maize, squash, and venison.
A lot has changed in the last three and a half centuries in our country and not just the Thanksgiving dinner menu. But every year that I come here to do this ceremony, it seems we have more to be thankful for as Americans. Not only do we have turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie, but for this turkey and its owners, we have the Minnesota Vikings and their great season this year.
We're also fortunate this Thanksgiving to live in one of the most prosperous times in our history, with unemployment at its lowest level in 28 years, homeownership at its highest level ever. More Americans this Thanksgiving will spend this holiday in their own homes than ever before.
But we should never forget that there are still people in our nation who need our concern and caring. The young people here today are interested in making the most of their own lives and in serving their own communities. They remind us that Thanksgiving is not simply a time for parades and a home-cooked meal but a time together with our friends, our families, our neighbors.
President Lincoln understood that when he issued the first official Proclamation of Thanksgiving during the Civil War. Although the American people then were engaged in a profound national struggle and, indeed, engaged with the very survival of our Nation, Mr. Lincoln reminded us that even in the darkest times, we all have something to be thankful for.
Therefore, I am honored to follow in the footsteps of President Lincoln, and President Truman who began this tradition 51 years ago of keeping at least one turkey off the Thanksgiving table. With this Presidential pardon, our friend here will retire to the petting zoo in Fairfax County, Virginia, to live out the remainder of his years surrounded by friends, not peas and sweet potatoes.
So let's bring the turkey up here, and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.