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Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

By: Catie Leary on Nov. 16, 2009, 5:46 a.m.
President John F. Kennedy, 1963

Photo: Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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The first turkey 'pardon'

In 1963, John F. Kennedy became the first president to publicly let his Thanksgiving turkey off the hook, although he didn't actually use the word "pardon." Kennedy simply announced in the Rose Garden on Nov. 18, 1963, that he didn't plan to eat the turkey, saying "Let's just keep him." But newspapers reported the next day that Kennedy had "pardoned" the bird, a concept that would stay in the American consciousness for decades.