On Monday, for the 76th consecutive year, a U.S. president was presented with a turkey — or in this case, two turkeys — in a pre-Thanksgiving ritual. And President Biden, who turned 81 the same day he spared the pair of birds, wanted to make one thing clear.
“I want you to know I wasn’t there for the first one,” Mr. Biden joked on the South Lawn of the White House, making light of an issue (his age) that polls show is troubling the most Americans.
“I was too young to do it,” Mr Biden said as he saved the lives of Liberty and Bell, each weighing 42 pounds and change.
As Liberty — or perhaps Bell — shook his head and flapped his wings on a table, the president proclaimed, “I hereby pardon Liberty and Bell.” Congratulations, birds. Congratulations.”
The act of granting clemency to a turkey, perhaps America’s wackiest modern presidential tradition, was full of the usual bad jokes and puns. “These birds have a new appreciation for the word ‘Let Liberty Ring,’” the president said.
Mr. Biden also made fun of himself.
“By the way, it’s my birthday today,” Mr. Biden told a crowd that included White House staffers and their families, a group of middle school students and farm groups. “I just want you to know that it’s hard being 60,” he says with scattered laughter.
Then the president botched a joke, appearing to confuse pop icons Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Britney Spears.
Describing the more than 1,000 miles the turkeys traveled to show up at the White House, Mr Biden said: “You could say it’s even harder than trying to get a ticket on the Renaissance tour or for Britney’s tour. » He added: “She’s over there, it’s pretty hot in Brazil at the moment.”
Ms Swift’s Eras tour had to postpone a concert in Brazil this weekend due to extreme heat in Rio de Janeiro. Ms. Spears is making headlines with a new memoir, but is not currently touring. Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour wrapped up in October.
In a sign of the president’s direction, he noted that the turkeys were named for Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, in a swing state, Pennsylvania, that could hold the key to the next election.
Mr. Biden, who spent his childhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and described himself on the campaign trail as a “Scranton kid,” has visited Pennsylvania 30 times since he was elected president. That’s more than he’s visited in any other state except his home state of Delaware.
The annual White House turkey ceremony officially began in 1947 under President Harry S. Truman, according to the White House Historical Association. Legend has it, however, that President Abraham Lincoln was the first to show mercy to a turkey at the request of his son Tad in 1863.
The next step for Liberty and Bell is retirement, when they will return to their home state of Minnesota and spend the rest of their lives at the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences in the University of Minnesota.
“My God, they’re big,” Mr. Biden said of the birds.