President Barack Obama has spared the lives of two turkeys that would otherwise be the centerpieces of Thanksgiving Day meals, thus stopping what he called a second “shellacking” in one month.
The annual White House ceremony is held one day before one of the main US holidays, when families gather for a meal that traditionally has been centered around a roasted turkey.
“Before everybody heads home for Thanksgiving, there is one official duty I am sworn to uphold as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth,” Obama said, with daughters Malia and Sasha at his side.
“Today, I have the awesome responsibility of granting a presidential pardon to a pair of turkeys. Now, for the record, let me say that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
The president was referring to the drubbing his Democratic Party received at the hands of Republicans in the November 2 legislative elections.
The turkeys, named Apple and Cider, were among 25 finalists chosen from some 20,000 turkeys born at a farm in Modesto, California.
The two “were selected for a final competition that involved strutting their stuff before a panel of judges with an eclectic mix of music playing in the background,” Obama said.
“It’s kind of like a turkey version of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ — except the stakes for the contestants was much higher,” he joked.
Apple and Cider will spend the final days at the estate of George Washington, the first US president in Mount Vernon, Virginia, just outside the US capital.
“This, of course, is what’s truly meant by Thanksgiving — a holiday that asks us to be thankful for what we have, and generous to those who have less,” said Obama.
“As president of the United States, you are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table,” Obama said, looking at the animals. “May you have a wonderful and joyful life at Mount Vernon.”