52nd Annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation

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52nd Annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation
The pardon of Harry
 (1999) 
by Bill Clinton
24 November 1999

Please sit down, everyone. Welcome to this annual day before Thanksgiving ritual here at the White House. I want to welcome particularly the Boys and Girls Clubs from Greater Washington, Horton's Kids, the people from the National Turkey Federation, and especially Chairman Jim Rieth and the President, Stuart Proctor.

I also want to say a special word of welcome to Representative Peter Deutsch from Florida, and his family who are here. This is a triumph of human stamina, because Peter just made the trip with me to Bulgaria and Kosovo – we got back very late last night, so he promised to come so there would be two jet-lagged people standing here together. And we're glad to see them.

I want to thank, as always, the National Turkey Federation for donating this year's Tom turkey. It traveled here all the way from Minnesota. Minnesota may be the second biggest turkey-producing state in our country. Sometimes I wonder if it's really a match for Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow we celebrate the last Thanksgiving of this century. A hundred years ago, on these very grounds, President William McKinley reflected on the last turn of the century. He said: "Seldom has this nation had greater cause for profound Thanksgiving"[1]. Those words ring even more true today. Today we count among our national blessing a time of unprecedented prosperity, with expanding economy, low rates of poverty and unemployment among our people, limitless opportunities for our children and the future.

We are also very grateful for the peace and freedom America continues to enjoy, thanks to our men and women in uniform – many of whom I saw yesterday a very long way from home at Thanksgiving.

As we gather around our dinner tables tomorrow with family and friends, let us give thanks for all these things that hold us together as a people – the duty we owe to our parents and our children; the nurturing and education of our families, especially our children, and for many, our grandchildren; the bounty of our Earth; and the strong spirit of community we enjoy here in the United States.

We also know as we celebrate our blessings that there are still too many people who are hungry at this holiday season, both beyond our borders and around the world, and sadly, even here in the United States. That's why it's so important that we not only give thanks, but also give back to our communities.

Before coming out here, I asked some of our staff members what they were thankful for this holiday season. One of my staff members said: "Today I'm thankful that I'm not a turkey." I know that one turkey doesn't have to worry about that – this fine-looking bird from the state of Minnesota. At over 50 pounds, he is the namesake of Harry S. Truman, the President who began the tradition of keeping at least one turkey off the Thanksgiving dinner table[2][3]. Harry, the turkey, will get his pardon today.

So before I feast on one of the 45 million turkeys who will make the ultimate sacrifice, let me give this one a permanent reprieve, and tell you all that he will soon be on his way to the wonderful petting zoo at Fairfax County, Virginia, where he can enjoy his golden years.

I want to say a special word of appreciation for the people who run this petting zoo and who give, therefore, a lot of children the opportunity to see animals and to touch them in a way that they never would.

Just before we came out here – or before we started the ceremony, Stuart reminded me that this turkey is a little more calm than the one we had last year. One of the most interesting things I've discovered in the seven years we've done this is that turkeys really do have personalities, very different ones. And most all of them have been quite welcoming to the President and to the children who want to pet them. On occasion, they're as independent as the rest of Americans.

So, Harry, you've got your pardon. Ladies and gentlemen, happy Thanksgiving.

References[edit]

  1. "Thanksgiving Proclamation," William McKinley, 25 October 1899
  2. "The Ungobbled Gobbler," Barbara Mikkelson of Snopes.com
  3. "Did Truman pardon a Turkey?," Harry S. Truman Library & Museum