President Obama bestowed the highest honor available to a bird upon Cobbler, a 19-week-old, 40 pound turkey from Rockingham County, Va., at the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation at the White House Wednesday.
In a speech leading to Cobbler's presidential pardon, Obama joked about the election and name-checked Nate Silver, whom he said "completely nailed" the first-time turkey vote that took place on Facebook to select the winning turkey.
"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward," Obama said. "I love this bird."
"I want to thank everyone who participated in this election," he added. "Because of your votes, the only cobbler anyone’s eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream."
The president also remembered servicemen and women overseas and victims of Hurricane Sandy, many of whom are still displaced.
"In the last few weeks, I had a chance to visit both New Jersey and New York," he said. "And while I’ve seen entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and heartbreaking loss and devastation, I have yet to find a broken spirit. Countless stories of courage, and compassion, and resilience have emerged in the aftermath of the storm."
"So tomorrow, we give thanks-–not only for the things that we have, or the people we love, but for the spirit that sees us through the toughest times, and holds us together as one American family, guided along our journey by the hope of a better day."
Cobbler insisted upon having his say, making noise and sending the audience into laughter, after Sasha Obama gave him a few pats on the neck.
The president waved the sign of the cross over Cobbler's head, as he had done before, ending the ceremony.
The names Cobbler and the backup bird, Gobbler, were chosen from submission by schoolchildren in Rockingham County. Cobbler and Gobbler will be transported to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate to live out their days doing... well, whatever if is that turkeys do.
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When President Barack Obama lands back in Washington after his quick swing through Southeast Asia, he'll make it back just in time for one of his most important duties as president: the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.
Yes, the pardoning of the turkey.
Traditionally, one bird gets the pardon, but another gets to be the alternate. Both turkeys will have the good fortune of living out their days at Mount Vernon, President George Washington's estate in northern Virginia, in a specially-made enclosure.
To weigh in, like or share one of the turkey photos on the White House Facebook page.
Either Cobbler or Gobbler will become the 24th turkey to receive the honor of the presidential pardon, but rumors of turkey pardons stretch back as far as President Lincoln.
According to the White House's Definitive History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon, Lincoln's son Tad may have successfully lobbied for clemency for the bird meant for the presidential Christmas table, not Thanksgiving.
Beginning in 1873, when Ulysses Grant was in office, a man called Horace Vose began selecting a special turkey for the president's Thanksgiving dinner. Vose continued to "select with the utmost care" the "noblest gobbler in all that little state [of Rhode Island] for more than 25 years.
The National Turkey Federation took over the responsibility in 1947, the first year an official receiving ceremony was held at the White House. President Harry Truman took the 1948 turkey home to his family celebration in Missouri.
And in 1963, President Kennedy returned one turkey to its home farm, saying "We'll just let this one grow," becoming the first president to spare the Thanksgiving turkey (probably). President Nixon followed suit, sending the annual bird to a petting farm after the traditional ceremony.
But it wasn't until 1989, for George H.W. Bush's first Thanksgiving in office, that the first turkey received official presidential pardon.
The turkey has "been granted a presidential pardon as of right now," President Bush said, before ordering the bird packed off to--get this--Frying Pan Park in nearby Herndon, Va.
This year, the makers of Wild Turkey bourbon petitioned for the lucky bird to make its home at the Kentucky distillery.
This year, Wild Turkey hopes to give this one fortunate fowl a prominent position as official "spokesbird" at its bourbon distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The Wild Turkey Distillery, where this pardoned turkey would reside full-time, has recently undergone a $50 million expansion, making the 134,000 square-foot facility one of the largest whiskey distilleries in North America, and an ideal home for this feathered friend.
"In our humble opinion, there is no better place for this year's Presidentially-pardoned bird to live out its golden years than the Wild Turkey Distillery grounds in central Kentucky," said Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller, Wild Turkey Bourbon. "There really is no bird more undeniably American than the turkey. After all, it was the great Benjamin Franklin who called for it to be named our national bird."
"So Mr. President, this Thanksgiving, please – Give Us The Bird," added Russell.
The National Turkey Federation spokeswoman said that, although the 2012 turkeys have been promised to Mount Vernon, they may have better luck with next year's.
Watch last year's ceremony, as President Obama pardons Peace.
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