Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Two turkeys from a farm in Minnesota were pardoned at the White House on Monday as part of a longstanding and cherished Thanksgiving tradition.
President Joe Biden opened the ceremony by jokingly asking the crowd whether he should spare the birds, named Liberty and Bell in honor of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, where Biden's 2020 campaign was headquartered.
"These birds have a new appreciation of the word 'Let freedom ring,'" Biden said.
Biden also remarked on the size of the turkeys before he declared them exonerated.
"I hereby pardon Liberty and Bell!" Biden exclaimed, meaning they won't be cooked up and served for this year's feast.
The president then concluded with remarks on the Thanksgiving holiday and how it is meant to "remind ourselves -- and we sometimes forget this -- how we have so much to be thankful for as a nation."
"This week we'll gather with the people we love and the traditions that each of us have built up in our own families," he said.
"Let's remind ourselves that we are blessed to live in the greatest nation on this face of the Earth."
Biden noted that Americans will also "think about the loved ones we lost" paying tribute to former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who died on Sunday.
"[She] walked her own path inspiring a nation and the world along the way," he said.
Liberty and Bell were unveiled Sunday at a news conference in Washington amid crowds and camera flashes inside the Willard InterContinental Hotel.
The young turkeys were hatched more than four months ago in Willmar, Minn., as part of the "Presidential Flock," according to the National Turkey Federation, which sponsored the event.
Ahead of their grand introduction on Sunday, the turkeys underwent training to familiarize them with crowds, cameras, music and loud noises to ensure they were prepared to meet the American people.
After leaving their coming out party in the hotel lobby, the birds retired to a comfortable double-bed suite for the rest of the evening.
Meet Liberty and Bell! NTF Chairman Steve Lykken of @Jennieo had the honor of announcing the Presidential Turkeys' names at today's press conference. No doubt, #Liberty & #Bell are excited to meet @POTUS at the @WhiteHouse tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/XKn3Se8Bia— National Turkey Federation (@natlturkeyfed) November 19, 2023
Apart from the lighthearted fanfare in Washington, the birds also served to spotlight the agriculture industry as well as the efforts of the nation's turkey farmers, said Steve Lykken, who is NTF chairman and president of Jennie-O Turkey Store.
"This event certainly for us, is an opportunity to recognize the really hard work of turkey farmers and men and women throughout animal agriculture and the turkey industry, and this is no exception," he said.
After leaving Washington, the pardoned turkeys are set to be housed at the University of Minnesota, Lykken added.
At last year's pardoning, Biden cracked jokes about Republicans as he granted amnesty to two turkeys named Chocolate and Chip.
The tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey is the subject of historical debate.
Some believe the annual rite dates back 76 years to 1947, when President Harry S. Truman absolved one of the birds for the first time, the White House said.
Others say President Abraham Lincoln may have granted reprieve to a turkey in 1863, however, the White House believes this story to be only legend.
The first documented turkey pardon was given 100 years later by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, but the tradition didn't really catch on until President George H.W. Bush vindicated a turkey in 1989.