President Pardons Thanksgiving Turkeys

President Joe Biden pardons turkeys “Liberty” and “Bell” at the White House. 

“I’m honored to welcome the biggest edition of this wonderful White House Thanksgiving tradition,” said United States President Joe Biden.

The President was speaking on the South Lawn of the White House on November 20. As part of a White House tradition dating back more than seven decades, he pardoned two turkeys, “Liberty” and “Bell.” 

It also was the President’s 81st birthday. He jokingly said that he was not at the first White House turkey pardoning in 1947, when Harry S. Truman was President. 

"These birds have a new appreciation for the words ‘let freedom ring,’” Biden said, smiling. The president was borrowing a line from the patriotic anthem, “My Country Tis of Thee.”

The two turkeys were raised on a family farm in Minnesota. They were chosen for pardon from among several turkeys.

“Just to get here, Liberty and Bell had to beat some tough odds—the competition,” Biden said in the light-hearted ceremony. “They had to work hard, show patience, and be willing to travel over a thousand miles.”

The President went on to explain that, after the ceremony, the turkeys would “head to their new home” at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences at the University of Minnesota. 

Following the pardon, the President said, “Congratulations, birds.”


Skye attends the traditional turkey pardoning at the White House on November 20. 


On a more serious note, the President urged White House visitors “to remind ourselves how we have so much to be thankful for as a nation.” The Thanksgiving holiday began as a way to honor the feast that Wampanoag Indians shared with English settlers in 1621.

“This week, we'll gather with the people we love and the traditions that each of us have built up in our own families,” President Biden said. “The national turkey pardon marks the unofficial start of the holiday season, a time to share joy and gratitude and have a little bit of fun.”

Biden pointed out the reason why everyone should be thankful. “We've never come out of a situation—a bad circumstance— without being better off when we come through it. And this is always who we are as Americans.”

The President finished by wishing White House staff members and their families who had gathered on the South Lawn “a Happy Thanksgiving.”


“Liberty” and “Bell” on the White House lawn. Each turkey weighed in at more than 42 pounds. 






Top photos courtesy of the author; bottom photo courtesy of the White House