Commentary: Thanksgiving in D.C.– a history of turkey pardons

In this Nov. 21, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump pardons Drumstick during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. A poll shows more than a third of Americans dread the prospect of political talk over Thanksgiving. The survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that just 2 in 10 are eager to discuss politics. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Boris Epshteyn formerly served as a Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign and served in the White House as Special Assistant to The President and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Happy Thanksgiving.

Many of us have our own fun and heartwarming traditions on this holiday. There is an annual Thanksgiving ritual at the White House as well.

It’s the presidential turkey pardon. This week, the country met Wishbone and Drumstick. Now they will get to live the good life safe from America’s dinner tables.

It’s actually somewhat unclear how this tradition of “pardoning” started.

Some say it can be traced to President Lincoln’s presidency when a turkey was brought to the White House for Christmas dinner and Lincoln’s son Tad begged his father to spare the turkey’s life.

Others credit the tradition to President Harry Truman because he was the first to formally accept turkeys from the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation in 1947.

Truman, however, did not pardon the turkey, some believe he had it for Thanksgiving dinner.

President Reagan was kind to the birds, starting the tradition of sending the pardoned turkeys to a farm to live out their days in 1981.

But it was actually President George H.W. Bush who solidified the formal pardoning tradition in 1989, when making a comment to protesting animal rights activists at the turkey presentation:

"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 --” Bush said.

From then on, the “presidential pardon” became something that Washington, and Americans all across the country, look forward to each Thanksgiving.

Here’s the bottom line: I hope all of you have a wonderful, happy and healthy Thanksgiving. The countdown begins until next year’s turkey pardon.

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