The History of Thanksgiving Turkey Pardons
Maybe that's why I have been trying to focus on the positive things in life lately, striving to find the middle ground, and overall trying to strike a balance in this crazy world we live in. As much of my social media feed is drowning in post-election woes/celebrations and the Standing Rock stand-off, I thought it best that perhaps I look for something to post this holiday season that is somewhat more positive. What's better than a bird getting a Presidential Pardon then!?
As most people know, each year the turkey presented to the President of the United States gets a pardon and continues to live out its days in peace at a farm or sanctuary of the President's choosing. But when did this trend become a real tradition? Would it surprise you to know that President George H.W. Bush was actually the first to instigate this practice regularly? Yes, President Lincoln was maybe the first to issue a single pardon, but given the newness of the holiday at the time of Lincoln's presidency, it's understandable why the pardon took so many years to take hold. See https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/which-president-started-the-tradition-of-pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey for more info.
What I find funny is that very few people realize just how STRANGE it is to present a person (let alone the President) with a live bird.... Why is this not weird? Harry Truman actually received cages of birds as protests for promoting poultryless Thursdays in the White House. These deliveries were dubbed "Hens for Harry." (See https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey). Originally, only one farm was allowed to gift the President a bird. Now, the opportunity to present the President with a turkey has been widely opened up to the public. Although, I'm not surprised about the pardoning trend given the security measures the bird likely has to go through to get onto the premises. And that brings up a good point--what is the President supposed to do with a turkey once it is on the premises? I am one of the few people I know with a chicken coop capable of housing a bird, and really what is the White House supposed to do?! Build a coop???? Hmm, maybe I will write to Melania and suggest she add that to Michelle's community garden concepts... Somehow, I don't think it will catch on.
For this and many other interesting facts about Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to check out this slide show from the American Bar Association (no, not that kind of bar, you drunkards, the one for lawyers): http://www.abajournal.com/gallery/turkey_pardons/.