Thanksgiving is a holiday full of traditions — especially for the person in the highest office in the entire country. And among all the presidential traditions, one that Americans look forward to every November is the presidential turkey pardon. Back in President Barack Obama's day, the pre-Thanksgiving event was an opportunity to hear A+ dad jokes. But now that Donald Trump is in office, the tradition has changed a bit. With Thanksgiving 2018 just around the corner, now seems like a good time to compare Obama's Thanksgivings in the White House with Trump's.
In a tradition dating back to President Harry S. Truman in 1947, the POTUS typically engages in a Thanksgiving turkey pardon in the days preceding Thanksgiving every year, according to the Washington Post. When Obama was in office, he had a heck of a lot of fun pardoning the turkey every year. In 2009, for his first pardon, Obama pardoned Courage, a 20-week-old turkey from Princeton, North Carolina, according to ABC News. "Today I'm pleased to announce thanks to the intervention of Malia and Sasha – because I was ready to eat this sucker – Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate," he joked at the ceremony, with Malia and Sasha by his side, ABC News reported.
Obama continued to bring the jokes at his pardoning every year — with his final turkey pardon, in 2016, overflowing with dad jokes. "What I haven't told them yet is we are going to do this every year from now on. No cameras, just us, every year. No way I'm cutting this habit cold turkey," he joked at the ceremony, as per NPR. "Tater is here in a backup role just in case Tot can't fulfill his duties," he also said, referring to the runner-up turkey being pardoned. "So he's sort of like the vice turkey. We're working on getting him a pair of aviator glasses," Obama added, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden. He also apologized to the crowd at the Rose Garden for all the silly jokes: "Look, I know there are some bad ones in here, but this is the last time I'm doing this, so we're not leaving any room for leftovers." OMG, Dad!
Even though it already feels like Trump has been the president for a long time, he's actually only had one official Thanksgiving in office so far. In November 2017, Trump pardoned a turkey named Drumstick — and his one big joke during the event referenced his predecessor.
“As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor,” Trump told the Rose Garden crowd, as per The New York Times. “However, I have been informed by the White House Counsel’s Office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot, under any circumstances, be revoked.”
Another Thanksgiving tradition for the Obama family was volunteering at soup kitchens and food banks every year. For example, in 2015, the family volunteered at Friendship Place Homeless Center in D.C., where they handed out Thanksgiving meals to the homeless and veterans, CNN reported at the time. "It's not only of the spirit of giving during this holiday season, but our national obligation to make sure all those who serve and sacrifice for our country have a place to call home," Obama said in a speech during his turkey pardon that year, as per CNN. "My administration considers this one of our top priorities, making sure that we're bringing about the reality of zero homelessness for our veterans."
The Trump family spent Thanksgiving 2017 a little differently than the Obamas typically did. The family flew down to Florida, and celebrated the holiday at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence, as per The Hill. Instead of volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, Trump and first lady Melania met with members of the U.S. Coast Guard in Riviera Beach, Florida, brandishing a spread of food including chips and soda, as per Business Insider. (As Melania's spokeswoman told ABC News, the Trump family's Thanksgiving spread was a little more traditional. It included local produce and cheeses, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a variety of baked goods.) And as the Florida-based Sun Sentinel reported, Trump is expected to spend the holiday in Florida again this year.
And lastly, the two president's Twitter pages have thus far tended to look different on Thanksgiving. Obama has used Thanksgiving to share gratitude for his family...
...for the military...
...and to acknowledge the importance of serving those in need.
But on Trump's first Thanksgiving, he instead took the opportunity to brag about his "accomplishments" while in office. He tweeted in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving last year:
The two most recent presidents have certainly celebrated the holiday in different ways, but the turkey pardon — and associated jokes (or, occasionally, "jokes") — is one tradition both share — at least for now.