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Obama sets 'Liberty' free with official turkey pardon

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President Barack Obama today pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a ceremony on the North Portico of the White House in the company of his daughters Sasha and Malia.

“Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American,” Obama said. “It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company. But it’s also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. They don’t have it so good. The rare exception, of course, are the two birds who’ve joined me today.”

Obama also joked that the pardoning of the turkey named “Liberty,” joined by an alternate turkey named “Peace,” was the latest in his series of actions that do not require congressional approval.

He also noted, “I’m told that in order to prepare Liberty and Peace for their big day, the students exposed them to loud noises and flash bulbs so that they’d be ready to face the White House press corps. This is actually true. They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything.”

The 19-week old, 45-pound turkeys were grown by a four high school students in an FFA program in Wilmar, Minn., that taught them about commercial turkey operations. The program is supervised by Richard Huisinga, head of Wilmar Poultry and chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

Huisinga and his family presented the turkey to the Obama, and the FFA students were also present.

The White House said the names of the turkeys were chosen from more than 100 submissions to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s web site that highlighted the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Many of the submissions came from Minneapolis and St. Paul school children who learned this year about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies, the White House noted.

After the pardoning, the turkeys were scheduled to be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. Liberty will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through January 6.

After the holidays, the turkeys will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.

The ceremony was the 65th anniversary of the presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey by the National Turkey Federation. Represents of the National Wild Turkey Federation were also present.

Obama also noted that he, his wife Michelle and their daughters "will also be taking two unnamed turkeys, who weren’t so lucky, to a local food bank here in D.C. that helps those in need. " The president thanked Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pa. for donating dressed birds for the third year in a row.