56th Annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation

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56th Annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation
The pardon of Stars and Stripes
 (2003) 
by George W. Bush
24 November 2003

Thank you all. Welcome. Thanks for coming. Good morning, and welcome to the Rose Garden. In a moment you can come up and welcome our guest of honor, Stars, the turkey. He looks pretty friendly. He actually looks well rested. You'd be well rested, too, if you had your own room in Hotel Washington here in Washington, D.C. It sounds like Stars wants to give the speech.

I appreciate you joining me to give this turkey a presidential pardon. Stars is a very special bird with a very special name. This year, for the first time, thousands of people voted on the White House website to name the national turkey, and the alternate turkey. Stars and Stripes beat out Pumpkin and Cranberry. And it was a neck-to-neck race.

Under the official rules the alternate turkey has an important role, not to be taken lightly. The rule book states that an alternate turkey is chosen in case the national Thanksgiving turkey cannot fulfill his role in this ceremony. It's kind of like being the Vice President.

Our nation's sense of gratitude is the source of great generosity of our people. Some of the boys and girls here today have done their part this year. Fifth graders from Flint Hill School collected the fixings and made sandwiches for people at the local homeless shelter. Through your compassion, you're showing the goodness of America, and we are really proud of you. Thanks for doing that.

I want to thank our Secretary of Agriculture for joining us today. Secretary Ann Veneman is doing a great job for our country. I want to thank Bob Wright, who's the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, for joining today. I appreciate Dr. Alice Johnson, who's the President. Thanks for coming, Alice.

Today marks a – and continues a long White House tradition. We're honoring the beginning of a holiday season. It speaks well for America that one of our most important holidays is set aside for sharing and appreciating our blessings. Our nation was founded by people of great accomplishment, great courage, and great humility. They believed not only in themselves, but also in the goodness of God's wisdom and God's plan for every life. This American quality has endured throughout the generations. Americans are, at our best, are a reverent and a grateful people. Even in times of hardship, we see all around us gifts to be thankful for: our families and friends, the beautiful land we call home, and the freedom granted to us all.

This year, as in other times in our history, we can be especially grateful for the courage and faithfulness of those who defend us. Every man and woman who wears our country's uniform is a volunteer, facing hardships and sometimes peril, because they believe in this country and our cause. We're thinking of them and their families. We think of the military families that have suffered loss. We can be grateful to live in a country that has produced such good and brave people who stand between us and the dangers of the world.

On this holiday, we're reminded of our blessings. We're reminded of our responsibilities. Our nation's sense of gratitude is the source of the great generosity and compassion of our people.

And now it's time to grant a little compassion to our guest of honor. I'm not sure why any turkey would want to reside at a place called Frying Pan Park. Maybe they explained the alternatives to him. In any case, off he goes. By virtue of the presidential pardon, Stars will live out his days there at Kidwell Farm in Virginia. And so he won't be alone, I hereby pardon Stripes, as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. May God bless you and your families. Thanks for coming.