- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Family values got the better of hunger for President Obama, who said he overcame the call of his own stomach Wednesday to pardon Courage, the 45-pound presidential turkey.

“I was planning to eat this sucker,” Mr. Obama, flanked by daughters Sasha and Malia, said as the feathered guest stood nearby. He said it was touch-and-go in his mind, but his daughters’ gentler plans for the bird won out.

It was the first pardon of Mr. Obama’s young presidency, and he played it up, including holding his outstretched hand over the turkey to officially convey the amnesty.

After his pardon, Courage — who stood remarkably still save for a few audible gobbles — was headed to Disneyland in California, where he will serve as the grand marshal of the park’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Mr. Obama was joined at the ceremony by Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, who raised the bird in Goldsboro, N.C.

Mr. Obama noted that not all past presidents showed mercy. But since President George H.W. Bush spared the first turkey 20 years ago, the Thanksgiving pardon has evolved into a tradition.

Mr. Obama’s daughters were the first to pet the rotund, white creature as it was perched on a table under the White House portico, with Mr. Obama appearing reluctant to touch it at first but eventually yielding to Courage’s charms.

Two of the turkey’s brethren were not so fortunate: The Obamas took two more to Martha’s Table, a D.C. soup kitchen. But another bird was spared; alternate Carolina will join Courage in Southern California.

“So today, all told, I believe it’s fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys,” Mr. Obama quipped, borrowing commonly used stimulus bill phraseology.

On a serious note, the president thanked American troops abroad.

“I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to every service member at home or in harm’s way. We’re proud of you, and we are thinking of you and we’re praying for you,” he said. “This is an era of new perils and new hardships. But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength.”

• Kara Rowland can be reached at krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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