[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 24, 1998]
[Pages 2087-2088]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony
November 24, 1998

    Good morning. Chairman Gessell, President Proctor, Walt Gislason, 
and all the children from the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs, 
welcome to all of you. I want to thank you for joining us in the Rose 
Garden for our annual Thanksgiving Day celebration. I'd also like to 
thank the National Turkey Federation again for donating this year's tom 
turkey to the White House.
    And of course, I want to acknowledge our special guest of honor, 
this good-looking turkey from the ``Land of 10,000 Lakes,'' Minnesota. 
Minnesota is the second largest turkey producing State in our Nation. 
They have even more turkeys there than lakes. And I must say, of all the 
years I've been here, this is the most adventurous turkey we've ever 
had. [Laughter] Just ask him your questions. [Laughter] While

[[Page 2088]]

the average turkey weighs about 15 pounds, they tell me our friend here 
weighs over 45 pounds.
    As all of you know, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, 
dating back to the Pilgrims and Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the 
Pilgrims sat down for Thanksgiving dinner in 1621, of course, they 
didn't have the usual trimmings: no potatoes, no stuffing, no pumpkin 
pie. In fact, they didn't even have a turkey. They feasted on maize, 
squash, and venison.
    A lot has changed in the last three and a half centuries in our 
country and not just the Thanksgiving dinner menu. But every year that I 
come here to do this ceremony, it seems we have more to be thankful for 
as Americans. Not only do we have turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie, but 
for this turkey and its owners, we have the Minnesota Vikings and their 
great season this year. [Laughter]
    We're also fortunate this Thanksgiving to live in one of the most 
prosperous times in our history, with unemployment at its lowest level 
in 28 years, homeownership at its highest level ever. More Americans 
this Thanksgiving will spend this holiday in their own homes than ever 
    But we should never forget that there are still people in our Nation 
who need our concern and caring. The young people here today are 
interested in making the most of their own lives and in serving their 
own communities. They remind us that Thanksgiving is not simply a time 
for parades and a home-cooked meal but a time together with our friends, 
our families, our neighbors.
    President Lincoln understood that when he issued the first official 
Proclamation of Thanksgiving during the Civil War. Although the American 
people then were engaged in a profound national struggle and, indeed, 
engaged with the very survival of our Nation, Mr. Lincoln reminded us 
that even in the darkest times, we all have something to be thankful 
    Therefore, I am honored to follow in the footsteps of President 
Lincoln, and President Truman who began this tradition 51 years ago of 
keeping at least one turkey off the Thanksgiving table. With this 
Presidential pardon, our friend here will retire to the petting zoo in 
Fairfax County, Virginia, to live out the remainder of his years 
surrounded by friends, not peas and sweet potatoes. [Laughter]
    So let's bring the turkey up here, and I hope you all have a 
wonderful Thanksgiving.

Note: The President spoke at 12:47 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Frank Gessell, chairman, and 
Stuart Proctor, Jr., president, National Turkey Federation, and Mr. 
Gessell's friend Walter Gislason, charged with handling the turkey. The 
Thanksgiving Day proclamation of November 17 is listed in Appendix D at 
the end of this volume.