President Barack Obama, with daughters Sasha, center, and Malia, right, pardons Cobbler the turkey, along with National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen.
President Obama pardoned a turkey and a spare at a White House ceremony Wednesday.
Cobbler the turkey emerged victorious in nationwide poll against another turkey, Gobbler, in a twist to the annual tradition.
“They say that life is all about second chances, and this November, I could not agree more,” the president said during the Thanksgiving Eve Rose Garden ceremony, where he also spared runner-up Gobbler from someone’s dinner table. "If Cobbler cannot fulfill his duties as the official White House turkey, Gobbler will be waiting in the wings."
The 4-month-old, 40-pound birds will live out their lives at a nationally recognized livestock facility just outside the nation’s capital at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.
“From here, these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years in the historic home of George Washington,” said the president.
After the joking and gobbling, Obama wished American families a safe and healthy holiday. “Tomorrow, in the company of friends and loved ones, we will celebrate a uniquely American holiday. And think about just how lucky we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.”
The president went on to briefly address the devastation in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy, and thank our armed forces. He reflected on his recent visits to tour the damage in New Jersey and New York: "While I’ve seen entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble, and heartbreaking loss and devastation, I have yet to find a broken spirit."
This year marked the first time the American public decided which of two birds would become the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey. The White House created a Facebook poll to determine the winner.
Voting was cut off Tuesday night, and Cobbler emerged as the victor. On Wednesday morning, he had 2,513 "likes" and 548 "shares" on his page, compared to Gobbler’s 2,230 likes and 484 shares.
The names of the two birds were chosen from submissions sent by elementary school students in Rockingham County, Virginia, where the turkeys were raised. Two less fortunate birds will be donated to a local food bank, the president said.
The pardon took place despite another annual custom — the written appeal by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals to end the Turkey Day tradition. PETA asked Obama to skip the pardon, insisting the ceremony mocked “the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds.” The organization also said the tradition portrays the president in cahoots with “the turkey-killing industry.”
The turkey pardon is a presidential tradition that harkens back to Abraham Lincoln, who wrote out a Christmastime pardon at the insistence of his son.
It was John F. Kennedy who appears to be the first president to bestow a Thanksgiving pardon. A Nov. 20, 1963-dated article from the Los Angeles Times noted the president reprieved a monster of a bird, a “55-pound broad white tom.”
“We’ll just let this one grow,” Kennedy said at the time.
Americans devour an estimated 46 million pounds of turkey each Thanksgiving, but every year one or two birds are spared this fate by none other than the president of the United States. Take a look at a few moments of comic clemency over the years.