Why Does The President Pardon A Turkey Every Thanksgiving?


There are many wonderful traditions surrounding the holidays and their significance. Because Thanksgiving is coming up very shortly we are going to dive into why the president pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving. I actually had never heard of the president pardoning a turkey at all until one day someone was talking about it in my class. This tradition was so much fun to learn about and find out the history behind why this happens every year.

The first president to ever pardon a turkey was the infamous Abraham Lincoln who did it because his son had grown very fond of the turkeys. Although he was the first president to pardon a turkey the tradition didn’t start until way after him. During that time it was always a tradition to have a bunch of turkeys come to the white house for a Thanksgiving feast. Also, Abraham Lincoln was a big animal lover and didn’t want to see them suffer.

After seeing president Lincoln pardon a turkey, John F. Kennedy got an idea of his own. He started a trend of publicly sparing one turkey that was supposed to be eaten at the Thanksgiving dinner. “He decided this after receiving a bird on November 19, 1963, and thought that it shouldn’t stay as dinner” (constitutioncenter.org). After Kennedy made that decision, it just began a tradition for every president to follow. “Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan were all photographed at turkey press conferences with their guests of honor”(constitutioncenter.org).

After the turkeys were pardoned they were sent to a zoo so they could live out the rest of their lives in peace. But ultimately it was president George H.W. Bush who actually made turkey pardoning official in 1989. This tradition is hardly known, in my opinion, in the Gen- Z age group, and I think it should be spread more across the world because it was so fascinating to learn about. Pardoning turkeys are just one of the impactful decisions presidents continue to this day. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and remember Knights, Be extraordinary and Strive for the impossible!