President Clinton invited the luckiest turkey in America to the White House on Wednesday for a pardon that spared it from becoming someone’s Thanksgiving meal.
Clinton granted the 75-pound white turkey a reprieve in a Rose Garden ceremony just minutes after he carved and served a cooked bird for about 50 residents of a local homeless shelter.
At both events, Clinton urged Americans to remember the one million families left homeless by the war in Bosnia, and to hope that the new peace agreement reached on Tuesday will hold.
“On this Thanksgiving, I hope God will bless the peace and bring those folks home again,” Clinton said.
The pardoned turkey, bred and raised in California, tilted its blue-feathered head and clucked contentedly for the president.
“I see one person thoroughly agrees with my decision here,” Clinton said. “If you look at his very patriotic red, white and blue face and feathers, this seems like the American thing to do on Thanksgiving.”
The audience for the Rose Garden ceremony - children from boys and girls clubs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington - laughed as the bird clucked in response to Clinton’s remarks.
Clinton stroked the outspoken and unnamed turkey before sending him to live at Kidwell Farms, a petting zoo in Fairfax, Va.
The turkey pardon has been an annual tradition at the White House since President Truman issued the first in 1947.
The first Thanksgiving proclamation, Clinton noted, was issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, “when our people were overwhelmingly preoccupied” with the nation’s fate.
“Nevertheless, Mr. Lincoln reminded us that we had things to be thankful for,” Clinton said. “So on this Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for our blessings, and we should redouble our resolve to do everything we can to make America a place of honor and decency.”
Earlier Wednesday, Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton served turkey, ham, salad, mashed potatoes and stuffing to about 50 people at the Blair Shelter in northeast Washington.
For more than a half-hour, residents sipped iced tea at long dining tables, awaiting Clinton.
Clinton, wearing a red-and-gray plaid shirt and a white apron, told the group he remains committed to ending homelessness in America.
“I’m just tired of seeing people in the street,” he said. “I hope on this Thanksgiving we can help more of our own people find homes.”