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The Presidential Turkey Pardon happens during The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, which is a presidential ceremony that happens in the White House before the Thanksgiving holiday every November. The pardon is a part of the ceremony where the President “pardons” a turkey presented to the Office instead of eating it.
See the fact file below for more information on the The Presidential Turkey Pardon or alternatively, you can download our 24-page The Presidential Turkey Pardon worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The President of the United States is presented a live turkey by the National Turkey Federation before Thanksgiving day.
- The National Turkey Federation is the trade association that represents the turkey industry and its affiliations.
- The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association also participated in the early years of this presentation.
- This ceremony started in the the 1940s.
- The President “pardons” the turkey by sparing its life, not eating or killing it, and even possibly sending it to a farm or a zoo.
- It is a fairly new tradition for Presidents to do this yearly. It started in 1989 when George W. Bush was in office.
- Prior to that, U.S. presidents ate the turkeys presented to them.
- Abraham Lincoln was the first president to pardon a turkey before it even became an official event.
- He did this because he loved animals and his son loved the turkey.
- For 40 years, from 1873 to 1913, a local Turkey farmer from Rhode Island named Henry Vose used to present a turkey to the President every Thanksgiving.
- In 1947, the first official turkey presentation happened on Harry Truman’s first Thanksgiving as President.
- Harry Truman is frequently called the “father of the presidential pardon”, but according to the Truman Library, there are no existing records of Harry Truman pardoning the turkeys. In fact, he ate them.
- One of the motivations for the presentation is the Truman Administration’s campaigns for “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Poultry-less Thursdays”.
- The Americans were not happy with this restrictive campaign and neither were the National Poultry and Egg Board.
- The administration withdrew the campaigns except for “Eggless Thursdays”, also forbidding traditional Thanksgiving foods like pumpkin pie for the rest of year.
- President Dwight Eisenhower also ate the turkeys that were presented to him from 1953 to 1961.
- President John F. Kennedy spared the turkey presented to him in 1963, but he stated that it was not a pardon although the media reported it was.
- Richard Nixon also pardoned the turkeys during his terms.
- However, it was not until Ronald Reagan’s term when the turkey was officially “pardoned”.
- Since 1982, Ronald Reagan had been pardoning the turkeys and sending them to farms and zoos.
- At the time, Ronald Reagan was being questioned if he was going to pardon Oliver North over his involvement with the Iran-Contra affair. Reagan responded with a joke about pardoning a turkey.
- On his final Thanksgiving as President in 1988, Ronald Reagan did not pardon the turkey.
- The pardoning of turkeys was made official and permanent by George W. Bush in 1989 after Reagan’s term.
- He did this as a positive response to the pleas of animal rights activists.
- The term “presidential pardon” has since then been used.
- Up until 2004, Frying Pan Farm Park in Fairfax County, Virginia was the farm turkeys were sent to.
- From 2005 to 2009, pardoned turkeys joined the Disney Thanksgiving Day Parade as grand marshals. They were sent to either Walt Disney Resort World, Florida, or to Disneyland Resort, California.
- From 2010 to 2012, the turkeys were sent to Mount Vernon.
- From 2013 to 2015, the turkeys were sent to Morven Park in Virginia.
- In 2016 and 2017, the turkeys were sent to the poultry science program of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
- “But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy – he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now – and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.”
George W. Bush, 1989
- The selection of a turkey to be presented starts with the National Turkey Association gathering a flock of 80 turkeys.
- The turkeys are supposed to handle crowds, noise, and flash photography well.
- From the 80 turkeys, the top twenty will be selected based on looks, composure, and behavior.
- Then it’s down to the top two finalists.
- The turkeys to be presented are given their own names.
- Their names come from nominations from students in the states where the top two turkeys are from.
- Turkeys raised for the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation are male turkeys (called toms) bred for size and reach up to 45 pounds by the time they’re presented.
- They often don’t live long after the “pardoning” because their size compromises their health. They live up to a year.
- Now, efforts to care for pardoned turkeys has helped them live up to two or three years.
- Ronald Reagan pardoned a turkey named “Charlie” and sent him to a petting zoo in 1987.
- Bill Clinton pardoned “Harry the Turkey” in 1999. Harry was the first officially named and formally pardoned turkey.
- George W. Bush pardoned “Liberty” in 2001 with its name alluding to the 9/11 attack.
- Barack Obama pardoned “Courage” in 2009.
- Donald Trump pardoned “Drumstick” in his first Presidential Turkey Pardon in 2017.
The Presidential Turkey Pardon Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about The Presidential Turkey Pardon across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use The Presidential Turkey Pardon worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Presidential Turkey Pardon which happens during The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, which is a presidential ceremony that happens in the White House before the Thanksgiving holiday every November. The pardon is a part of the ceremony where the President “pardons” a turkey presented to the Office instead of eating it.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Presidential Turkey Pardon Facts
- National Event
- History of the Pardon
- Prior to the Pardon
- Presidents Who Pardoned
- Where Do They Go?
- All About The Turkeys
- Turkeys Over The Years
- Pardon Crossword Puzzle
- Pardon Photo Gallery
- Thanksgiving Headline
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Link will appear as The Presidential Turkey Pardon Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 29, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.