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San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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America’s Savior Turkey
President George W. Bush pardons a turkey in the Rose Garden on November 26, 2002. George W. Bush Presidential Library/NARA

Once a year Thanksgiving rolls around in all its pumpkin-gravy-carby goodness notoriously known for its main dish, turkey. While roughly 46 million turkeys are eaten on this holiday, one lucky feathered bird will be spared. Done first by former president George H. W. Bush, a fortunate turkey from the chairperson’s homestate has been given the presidential pardon and spared from a year of stuffing and gravy. 

image courtesy of Creative Commons

Former presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Regan pardoned turkeys but it did not become an annual tradition until George H W Bush was in office. Turkey’s were often given to the white house after 1914 when the white house turkey supplier passed away. The giving and receiving of a turkey was seen as a festive and cheerful way of celebrating. Yet the act of receiving a turkey evolved into something more during the Nixon administration. Former president Nixion received a turkey but then sent it to Oxon hill Children’s farm, not using it for Thanksgiving dinner. Presidents following Nixon followed his lead, sending back their turkey’s to farms until this strange exchange developed into a ceronmoy. Under the Bush administration in 1989 the ceremony included a presidential pardon when he invited animal rights activists. 

“But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy—he’s presented a Presidential pardon as of right now—and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here,” said Bush in a White House History article. 

Ever since former President Bush turkeys have been given the Presidential pardon. Students at San Marcos were asked what message the pardon sent.

Senior Madeline Miller
image courtesy of Olivia Miller

“I don’t think that pardoning the turkey is a big deal,” said senior Madeline Miller. “I think that thanksgiving has a lot of other significant elements to our culture but I don’t think that the turkey pardoning is one of them.” 

Out of all the students interviewed  none of them had heard of the pardoning before. 

“It seems kind of pointless, turkeys are being eaten anyways,” said sophomore Dara Weibe. “It kind of reminds me of slavery to be honest. Like you’re free but we’re still going to prosecute you.”

“I definitely think it could be taken as a political statement, like pardoning and freedom, but it also could be taken in a humorous way,” said sophomore Marilee Larned. “It’s almost like a savior turkey.”

“I do not think it is very necessary to pardon a single turkey. It does not excuse what is done to Turkey’s brethrens during the holiday season,” said student body president Gabe Kacey. “I feel, like I said, that it is a waste of time but do I agree that it is lighthearted and humorous? Absolutely, I do agree with that.”

Other students agreed that the pardoning of the turkey was a comedic act, done to add humor and a lighthearted feeling to the holiday. 

“Turkeys deserve life,” said sophomore Lyla Brondstad. 

Whether students have heard of this event or not, think it sends a good or bad message, this American tradition stands strong. This year we will see which feathered birth gets to be the ‘savior turkey’.

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About the Contributor
Olivia Miller, Editor-in-Chief
Olivia Miller is a Junior at San Marcos High school. This is her third year on the Kings Page staff with her first year as a editor-in-chief. Besides being the Feature Section editor she enjoys running, drawing, and going to the beach. Her hope for the 2021 Kings Page year is to speak to the San Marcos Community and contribute to the Royal Pride!
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America’s Savior Turkey