The Presidency, Barack Obama said at the White House Wednesday, has “many awesome and solemn responsibilities.”
“This is not one of them,” he added.
The tradition of the President pardoning a turkey around Thanksgiving is probably America’s silliest tradition, and has only grown more cartoonish over time. The National Turkey Federation has donated two turkeys to the White House every year since 1947, according to the Washington Post, and Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower ate their birds. Now the pardoned turkeys are given names—“Caramel” and “Popcorn” this year—with their height, weight, walk (“steady and deliberate” and “proud strut”) and favorite song dutifully documented on the White House website. Caramel bobs to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga; Popcorn prefers “Halo” by Beyoncé.
The turkey pardon has been lampooned this year, from gallows reports that Obama’s previously pardoned turkeys are all dead, to serious attacks of Obama’s limited use of the clemency power on humans.
The President sprinkled his speech with references to the Hunger Games and the birds’ funny names, before ending on the note of why America celebrates Thanksgiving. “This is a season not only to be thankful for the incredible blessings that we have, but also to remember the neediest and generously serve those who are not as fortunate,” said Obama. “This is a quintessential American holiday.”
After his speech, Obama dragged his reluctant tween and teenager, Malia and Sasha, over to Popcorn.
“I want to grant Popcorn a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing,” he said. “We wish you well.”
He raised his hand in a papal salute, wished the crowd a happy Thanksgiving, and walked back inside.