Annual Turkey Pardoning: “Liberty & Bell” Spared in Thanksgiving Tradition

November 21, 2023

These birds have a new appreciation for the word[s], ‘Let freedom ring.’

President Joe Biden said as he pardoned two turkeys on Monday at the annual White House turkey pardoning tradition.

On Monday, President Joe Biden pardoned Liberty and Bell, two 42-pound turkeys from Minnesota at the annual White House turkey pardon. Occurring at the White House South Lawn, this kicked off the unofficial start of the holiday season and, happened to fall on President Biden’s 81st birthday.

President Biden stated, “Look folks, based on their commitment to being productive members of society as they head to their new home at the University of Minnesota … I hereby pardon Liberty and Bell. Congratulations, birds!”

Liberty and Bell: The turkeys were raised as part of the presidential flock and trained with noises before attending the event (such as listening to Taylor Swift music). The two will return to the University of Minnesota and the College of Food, Ag, and National Resource Sciences.

Chairman of the National Turkey Federation and president of the Jennie-O Turkey Store said that Liberty and Bell, “were raised like all of our turkeys, protected, of course, from weather extremes and predators, free to walk about with constant access to water and feed.”

The Tradition: Some point to President Abraham Lincoln as the founder of the tradition after he spared a turkey in 1863. However, the National Turkey Federation began offering presidents a turkey for Thanksgiving in 1947. While President Harry S. Truman received the first live turkey, he did not in fact pardon it; in 1948 he stated it would “come in handy” for Christmas dinner. Several years later, President John F. Kennedy gave the first documented reprieve to a turkey as he said, “Let’s him keep going.” Finally, in 1989, President George H.W. Bush said, “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.” Since then, turkeys have been pardoned by the president each year.

Read More:

Biden pardons National Thanksgiving Turkeys while marking his 81st birthday with jokes about his age (The Associated Press)

White House turkey pardon 2023: Watch live as Biden pardons Thanksgiving turkeys Liberty and Bell (The Associated Press)

Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey (The White House Historical Association)

Who was the first president to pardon a turkey? The tradition may be older than you think (USA Today)

by Sarah Pinkerton,