3:30 p.m. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Please sit down. I am honored to have your first time as President here at the White House for a Thanksgiving tradition that will remind us to have some fun and always be grateful.
You know, as a man from the University of Delaware, I’m facing Blue Hens, but today we’re talking about turkey.
To the families of my employees, thank you very much for joining us and being part of our team.
And thank you
Pete [Phil] Seger, Chairman of the Turkish National Association, for continuing the tradition of handing the turkey to the President, which goes back to President Truman.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter) Yeah. And the pardon for the turkey goes back to George HW Bush.
I have just met your wonderful family: your wife Krista, who volunteers to have children vaccinated at home in Jasper – thank you very much for that; and your incredible kids – 12 year old Addie and 10 year old Ellie and 9 year old Jack.
And Addie and Ellie, I tell you, if you – your parents will understand – the reason I ran for the presidency is because my grandchildren your age might have the protection of the Secret Service – because they are lovely young women and young man.
Look, and special thanks to the students at Ellie and Jack’s School in Jasper for submitting the names of these two fine turkeys – two names I couldn’t agree more with. Who better to help celebrate the holiday when we break the bread for two turkeys called peanut butter and jelly?
I have to admit – my wife doesn’t like to admit it – that’s what I like to have for lunch: peanut butter and jelly.
But I would also like to thank the farmers who were selected by the National Turkey Federation to raise the so-called “Presidential Flock”.
That’s a group of around 20 turkeys struggling to make it here today. In other words, the presidential code of Turkey. (Laugh.)
And that’s how I just met Andrea and Brad Welp, third and fifth generation farmers from St. Anthony, Indiana. And they are here with their 5 year old son Benton and their 2 year old daughter Brogan who are wondering, “Why do I have to be here, mom?” (Laugh.)
Since July – since July they have been preparing the flock for this day. And I was told that the turkeys even listen to music to get used to the noise of the crowd. And they interacted with children and visitors to get used to their visit to Washington.
And finally, peanut butter and jelly were chosen
based on their temperament, appearance, and what I suspect vaccination status. (Laugh.)
THE PRESIDENT: You see? (Laughter) Yes, instead of being watered, these two turkeys get boosted. (Laugh.)
THE PRESIDENT: (laughs) Yes. (Laughter) I love it when you talk to me like that.
This week they were greeted on the red carpet at a fancy hotel here in Washington called the Willard Hotel next door.
Secretary Buttigieg couldn’t be here today, but I’m sorry for Pete and Chasten: Peanut Butter and Jelly are now the new Indiana power couple.
And Andrea and Brad, thank you very much for pouring your love and pride into this work and this national tradition. And Benton and Brogan, I know you will miss your favorite turkeys, but the good news is you can visit them anyway.
After the President’s pardon, Peanut Butter and Jelly are headed to Purdue University West Lafayette – in West Lafayette, Indiana – to visit something I care about – a train: the Boilermaker Special. There they will be.
So fer- – people, Turkey is infrastructure. Peanut butter and jelly will help rebuild the butterball as we move on. (Laugh.)
And so, with this – I’m going over. I will forgive this year’s turkey – the national Thanksgiving turkey. And the first – the one to be pardoned is peanut butter, who should be able to do his duty. And with this, too – if that changes, I will also forgive his alternative jelly.
Folks, like I said, every American wants the same thing: They want to look the turkey in the eye and tell it everything will be fine. (Laughter) And so, folks, it’ll be fine.
Seriously, it is important to carry on traditions like this to remind us how out of the darkness comes light, hope, and progress. And that’s what this year’s Thanksgiving stands for, in my opinion.
So many of us will get together with loved ones for the first time in a long time and reconnect with traditions, with our tables and our hearts full of grace and gratitude for all who made this possible:
The scientists, researchers, doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers who developed and delivered the vaccines and kept essential services running.
Faith leaders and community leaders who advise, comfort, and heal.
Farmers, farm workers, meat packers who risked their lives during this pandemic to grow, process and pick the food that is on our tables.
And on Monday, my wife, Jill, and I will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the troops and their military families for an early Thanksgiving day. We will be able to show the nation’s gratitude for their service and sacrifices, and to welcome those who come home after 20 years in Afghanistan.
But, folks, as we give thanks for what we have lost – we also keep in our hearts those who we have lost – we have lost so much, those who have been left empty this year due to the virus or some other cruel turn of events their tables will have or accident.
The grief they have is – there is a lot of grief that is deep that tears hearts apart every holiday. We pray that they will find strength in grief and purpose in pain.
And while we are regaining our cherished traditions, let us dedicate ourselves to what the psalmist wrote – said, “The Lord is my strength and my shield … and with my song I thank him.”
Let our song be one of lives saved, fractures repaired, a nation being healed. And this is the America I know: a great nation because we are good people.
I am forever grateful to you, the American people, for the trust you have placed in me.
And from the Biden family to yours, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
And may bless – God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
And maybe – let’s get to the matter of pardon. Thanks very much. (Applause.)
That’s a big turkey. With the power conferred on me as President of the United States, I forgive you. I forgive you this Thanksgiving.
Come on, say something. (Laugh.)
There you go. (Laughter) “Thanks for your pardon.”
But I also have to forgive – I also have to forgive Jelly.
Jelly, you don’t have to come up here, but I forgive you boy. Yes.
Thanks all of you. Hope you have a happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving. And it’s freezing, isn’t it? (Laugh.)
Good. Thank you all. (Applause.)
3:38 p.m. EST