WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden turned 81 on Monday, but he wasn’t the only one being celebrated.
Two turkeys, Liberty and Bell, were pardoned by the President during a South Lawn ceremony, continuing the annual White House tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving bird.
“The national turkey presentation marks the unofficial start of the holiday season here in Washington — a time to share joy and gratitude and have a little bit of fun,” Biden said.
The annual pardoning of White House turkeys began unofficially 76 years ago under former President Truman. It was formalized in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush. Many have said President Lincoln’s clemency to a turkey in 1863 was the origin of the pardoning ceremony, but the White House said this is “likely apocryphal.”
This year, the two lucky birds come from a Jennie-O Turkey Store farm near Willmar, Minn.
“We are thankful to President Biden and the National Turkey Federation (NTF) for warmly welcoming us, and Liberty and Bell,” Jennie-O President and NTF Chairman Steve Lykken said in a statement on Monday.
The turkeys’ names are a nod to swing state Pennsylvania, which was key to Biden’s win in 2020 and has been a massive focus for his reelection campaign. Biden was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., and the keystone state has become a central aspect of President Biden’s political identity.
Now officially pardoned, the birds will catch the gravy train back to Minnesota, where they will live out the rest of their lives at the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, cared for by veterinary students and professionals.