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Obama grants reprieve to turkeys "Honest" and "Abe"

Kevin Freking
Associated Press

Washington — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation’s most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and bipartisan cheer no matter how troubled the times.

Obama pardoned “Abe,” the 2015 National Thanksgiving Turkey, during a ceremony Wednesday in the Rose Garden. He gobbled right on cue as Obama finished his absolution. Don’t fret for “Honest,” though, the second bird who was on the grounds but off camera. Both turkeys will get a reprieve from the oven and will spend their remaining days living it up on a nearby Virginia farm.

President Barack Obama pardons Abe and its alternate Honest, not shown, both 18-week old, 40-pound turkeys, as National Turkey Federation Chairman Dr. Jihad Douglas looks on during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.

Both birds hail from California, are 18 weeks old and weigh in at about 42 pounds each. The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions entered by school children in California. Honest has a red face and neck, while Abe’s crown features more extensive blue splotches.

Obama referred to Abe as TOTUS, or Turkey of the United States.

“America is after all a country of second chances and this turkey has earned a second chance to live out the rest of his life comfortably on 1,000 acres of open land complete with a barn called the ‘the White House on Turkey Hill,’ which actually sounds pretty good,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks with his daughters Sasha, left, and Malia during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday.

George H.W. Bush was the first president to formally pardon a Thanksgiving turkey, though stories of spared turkeys date back to Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

The National Turkey Federation is the turkey supplier for the event. The trade group and others have been providing turkeys for the First Family going back to President Harry Truman, though not all of the birds provided during the years shared a similar reprieve from the White House dinner table.

Obama was accompanied at the event by his daughters, Malia and Sasha. They didn’t look thrilled at last year’s turkey pardoning, and Obama thanked them for once against standing with him. “They do this solely because it makes me feel good, not because they actually think that this is something I should be doing,” Obama said.

After the ceremony, the Obama family is volunteering at a community service project in Washington.