On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush issues a humorous but sincere presidential pardon to a lucky turkey that otherwise might have ended up on someone’s Thanksgiving Day dinner table. In doing so, he continued a tradition begun in 1947 when the National Turkey Foundation first presented Thanksgiving turkeys to President Harry S. Truman.
According to the National Turkey Foundation, Truman was given one live turkey and two dressed turkeys the week before Thanksgiving in 1947. Truman donated the live bird to a local farm, where the turkey was guaranteed a long life unmolested by stuffing or gravy.
Likewise, in 2005, Bush accepted the foundation’s gift of two live birds, named “Marshmallow” and “Yam,” in a White House ceremony. Calling the birds “the people’s turkeys,” Bush explained that they had earned their names through a democratic process—the public was allowed to vote on names for the birds through the White House website. He quipped that the vote had been so close, “you might say it was neck and neck.” Previous votes resulted in names like “Biscuit” and “Gravy;” Bush’s 2003 turkeys were patriotically dubbed “Stars” and “Stripes.”
According to the White House website, most previously pardoned turkeys had been sent to live on a 1930s-era farm in Fairfax County, Virginia. In 2005, Bush sent Marshmallow and Yam to serve as Grand Marshals for the Disneyland Thanksgiving Day Parade and to live out their years at the Disneyland Resort and Theme Park in Anaheim, California.
Bush and his family later enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal of roast turkey with all the trimmings.