President Obama grants first pardon

WASHINGTON — After 10 months in office, President Obama on Wednesday granted his first pardon — to Courage, a 45-pound turkey spared from the Thanksgiving table.

Accompanied by daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama stood under the North Portico of the White House to honor a holiday tradition that dates to 1947 — receiving a bird from the National Turkey Federation. Later in the day, Obama and his family passed out turkeys and fixings to the needy.

"I'm told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys," Obama said. "You can't fault them for that; that's a good-looking bird."

President George H.W. Bush was the first to officially pardon a turkey.

Obama joked about wanting to forgo the tradition and eat Courage.

"Thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha — because I was planning to eat this sucker — Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate," he said.

Obama noted that President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday in the midst of the Civil War, "when the future of our very union was most in doubt."

"This is an era of new perils and new hardships," he added. "So on this quintessentially American holiday, as we give thanks for what we've got, let's also give back to those who are less fortunate."

Obama said Courage will spend the rest of his life in "peace and tranquillity" at Disneyland.

"There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office," Obama joked. "And then there are moments like this, where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."

Later on Wednesday, Obama and his family passed out frozen birds at Martha's Table, an organization that feeds the hungry and provides other community services. The Obamas stood behind tables and passed out turkeys, stuffing and other Thanksgiving favorites to people passing through in a line.

The president tucked pumpkin pies into people's bags and wished them a happy holiday. Sasha and Malia, the first lady and her mother, Marian Robinson, worked alongside the president, putting canned food, stuffing and fresh vegetables into bags.