- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

President Obama took part Wednesday in the annual White House tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey.

The president emerged from the Palm Room at about noon with daughters Sasha and Malia in hand to pardon the 45-pound bird named “Courage,” from Goldsboro, N.C.

The president jokingly said certain days remind him of why he ran for this office, “then there are days like this when I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.”

The holiday tradition of U.S. presidents receiving a bird from the National Turkey Federation dates back to 1947.

“I’m told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys,” Mr. Obama said. “You can’t blame them for that; that’s a good-looking bird.”

The president said playfully that he also wanted to eat the bird but his daughters intervened.

Mr. Obama said President John F. Kennedy was the first to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey.

President George H.W. Bush was the first to officially pardon one.

The president turned serious about halfway through the lighthearted, 10-minute event, on a damp Washington afternoon, wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to service members at home and around the world.

Mr. Obama, in his first Thanksgiving as president, also said this is a time for people to count their good fortunes, but he realizes the war and the economy have made that hard.

“It’s a more difficult time to notice our blessings, but it’s also easier to take them for granted,” he said.

Mr. Obama said President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday during the Civil War “when the future of our very union was most in doubt.”

The daughters — dressed casually for a day off from school — warily, then gently, stroked the bird’s white feathers as it sat on a stand.

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