President Barack Obama, with daughters Sasha, second from left, and Malia, right, bestows a presidential pardon on Popcorn, the turkey, in a White House Thanksgiving tradition. Carolyn Kaster/AP
A turkey caught a break in Washington today. President Obama bestowed the traditional presidential pardon to a turkey named Popcorn, who now becomes the 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey. It’s the 66th anniversary of the tradition that keeps a lucky turkey or two off the dinner table.
In bestowing the official pardon, the president also observed the tradition of cracking a few jokes at the short outdoor ceremony at the White House, where he was joined by his daughters, Natasha and Malia.
“The office of the presidency — the most powerful position in the world — brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities,” he said. “This is not one of them.”
The pardon came after the White House announced the results of “The Gobble,” a competition that pitted two turkeys — Caramel and Popcorn — against each other for the title of this year’s honored turkey. The two male birds were hatched on the same day at the farm of John and Joni Burkel near Badger, Minn., according to the White House.
Obama said, “Now, 80 turkeys on John’s farm competed for the chance to make it to the White House and stay off the Thanksgiving table. It was, quite literally, the hunger games.”
The two birds’ names were chosen from a pool of submission from students at Badger High School in Badger, Minn. They traveled to Washington along with the Burkels for today’s ceremony.
Both Caramel and Popcorn escaped with their lives. But they’ll have to earn their keep for a while — they’ll be on display for visitors to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia through Jan. 6. After that date, they’ll travel to a sort of retirement home for America’s pardoned turkeys, at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill farm in Leesburg, Va.
“This is a quintessentially American holiday, and during this time we give thanks to our friends and our family,” the president said toward the end of the rainy ceremony, “for citizens who show compassion to those in need, and for neighbors who help strangers they’ve never met.”