Why the President Should Eat the Thanksgiving Turkey

President John F. Kennedy is said to have spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963. The tom was wearing a sign that read, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” And Kennedy reportedly said, “Let’s just keep him.”photo from wikipedia.org

Mr. President, for the sake of our history and our wildlife conservation model, please eat that Thanksgiving turkey. Would the starving Pilgrims have pardoned a tom on the first Thanksgiving? Don’t millions of American hunters still kill their own wild turkeys each year and pay for wild turkey conservation in the process?

Consider our history: According to three accounts of the Plymouth Plantation’s 1621 first Thanksgiving—Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford; Mourt’s Relation, which was probably written by Edward Winslow; and New England’s Memorial, penned by Plymouth Colony Secretary Captain Nathaniel Morton—the first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included ducks, geese, wild turkeys, fish caught by the colonists, and five deer killed by the Wampanoag.

Bradford wrote that “besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which [we] took many.”

Today, thanks to conservation efforts led by America’s hunters, wild turkeys, which had plummeted to less than 30,000 nationwide in the 1920s, now number about seven million in the U.S. Isn’t this something worth celebrating?

This is why it’s time, Mr. President, to eat your turkey. After all, the precedent of padoning a turkey on Thanksgiving hardly goes back to George Washington. Actualy, President John F. Kennedy is said to have spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963 and thereby started the annual pardon. The tom was wearing a sign that read, “Good Eating, Mr. President!” And Kennedy reportedly said, “Let’s just keep him.”

Before JFK pardoned that turkey, President Dwight Eisenhower ate the turkeys brought to him. So there’s your precedent, Mr. President. After all, that bird is a commercial turkey and so can’t live on its own. Eating the turkey could even be viewed as an act of mercy.

A president consuming a turkey instead of pardoning it would represent a distinctively American wildlife success story. photo from saveur.com.

Certainly, human compassion is also something to be celebrated, and a pardon for the feathered symbol of Thanksgiving is a politically correct manifestation of that sentiment, but even more important are our very real wildlife conservation efforts.

So kill and cook that turkey and have a bunch of political friends and rivals to the White House for the feast. This would be a national moment to be remembered. By carving the bird for them, there would be a political coming together on the bedrock of established American values.

Many forget that our first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth colony probably wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Squanto, a man from the Patuxet tribe. Squanto, who had learned English while enslaved in England, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter. He negotiated with the Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, and got him to give food to the starving Pilgrims during their first winter. Because of Squanto’s help, the feast now referred to as the first Thanksgiving was held in early October 1621 and was celebrated by 53 Pilgrims, along with the Native American chief Massasoit and 90 members of his tribe.

Mr. President, without the well-basted symbol of Thanksgiving on the table, such a dinner just wouldn’t have the needed sustenance.