The Annual Presidential Turkey Pardon

Although legend has it that the tradition of the president pardoning a turkey each Thanksgiving has been around a long time, the tradition really started as recently as 1989.

That year, the turkey received as an annual gift from the National Turkey Federation was officially pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, who said that the exonerated bird was “granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”

The first year that the National Turkey Federation delivered a turkey to the president, it was so that he could make a meal out of it. In the following year, 1948, it delivered a turkey to President Truman, announced that he was taking it back home to his relatives in Missouri, indicating that they would eat it.

In 1963, President Kennedy sent the turkey intended for his plate back to a farm, but no turkey was officially pardoned by a U.S. president until 1989.

The tradition has since developed to include a spare turkey in the event of the untimely death of the turkey lined up for pardoning. This precaution has come in handy in the past: in 2008, President George W. Bush pardoned a backup “vice” turkey after the first choice bird fell ill the night before the ceremony.

Although these lucky turkeys have a better fate than their 46 million relatives who will not be pardoned this Thanksgiving, they often don’t last much longer. The two turkeys pardoned in 2010 both died by Thanksgiving of 2011.

The staff at Greenspoint Dental wishes all of our patients and their families a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend. If you would like to schedule a post-holiday dental checkup, contact Greenspoint Dental today.