- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Declaring “we can’t wait to pardon these turkeys,” President Obama Wednesday gave two birds the traditional presidential reprieve from a sentence to be the centerpiece at a Thanksgiving dinner table.

“Some of you may know that recently I’ve been taking a series of executive actions that don’t require congressional approval,” Mr. Obama said. “Well, here’s another one. We can’t wait to pardon these turkeys — literally. Otherwise, they’d end up next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing.”

The president’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, accompanied their father on the North Portico of the White House for the event. As Mr. Obama approached a docile, 45-pound bird named Liberty that had been placed on a table, the president held out his arm and jokingly made the Sign of the Cross over the animal.

“You are hereby pardoned!” the president said.

Liberty and a companion named Peace were raised by students in Willmar, Minn., under the supervision of National Turkey Federation Chairman Richard Huisinga.

“In order to prepare Liberty and Peace for their big day, the students exposed them to loud noises and and flash bulbs so they’d be ready to face the White House press corps,” Mr. Obama said. “They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything.”

Later Wednesday, the president and his family handed out bags of food at the Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast Washington, which distributes about 30 million pounds of food per year. They were helped by members of the Oregon State men’s basketball team, which is coached by Craig Robinson, brother of first lady Michelle Obama.

Mr. Obama reminded Americans gathering for the holiday to “be grateful for what we have.”

“Let’s be mindful of those who have less, let’s appreciate those who hold a special place in our lives and make sure that they know it, and let’s think about those who can’t spend the holiday with their loved ones, especially the members of our military serving overseas,” Mr. Obama said.

The names of the turkeys were chosen from over 100 submissions to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s website, including many from students who were learning about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and local economies.

After the pardoning, Liberty and Peace were to be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Alexandria, Va.. They will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through Jan. 6.

After the holidays, the turkeys will reside in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s livestock facility.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama exercised his clemency powers in a more serious vein, issuing pardons for five people convicted of charges ranging from intent to distribute marijuana to running an illegal gambling business. He also issued his first commutation, ordering the release of a woman who served 10 years on a 22-year sentence for cocaine distribution.

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