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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at the Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation Ceremony

1990-11-14

Is that the bird? Hey, Sam! I know you've been waiting out here and getting cold, but I want to welcome all you kids and all you older kids to the Rose Garden, especially Tom over there. After everything that's been going on in Washington these past few months, it's great to finally be sharing a stage with someone I can call a turkey and get away with it. [Laughter] So, I welcome him. I want to assure those of you who fear that a terrible fate awaits Tom Turkey that we've decided to spare him. He will not be subjected to questions from the Washington press corps after this ceremony. [Laughter]

Tom, since you come from North Carolina, and out of respect for the Governor of that State, my friend Jim Martin, I'm going to give you a Presidential pardon, and you can spend the rest of your life at a nearby children's farm. So, he'll be all right at Thanksgiving. Other turkeys may not; this one's going to be okay.

I'm glad to see the kids from the Key Elementary School and the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School. Here's a story you can take back to your teachers. Ben Franklin was upset that the bald eagle was named our national symbol because he wanted it to be the turkey. He said: ``The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and a true original native of America.'' I'm sure that's a sentiment that Wyatt Upchurch and Stuart Proctor here and the National Turkey Federation would strongly applaud.

You know, Thanksgiving is really special to me because it's a truly American holiday, one that sums up the good, generous heart of this country. And it reminds us of our real American values, the ones we just can't afford to forget: values like deep gratitude for the rich blessings of this great land, unselfish generosity towards those in need, and commitment to the primary importance of family.

With those values in mind, inside there in the Oval Office, I just signed the 1990 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, continuing a Presidential tradition that was begun by our first President, George Washington. I was pleased to have five religious leaders from different denominations on hand for the signing. And continuing an even longer tradition that dates back to the Pilgrims, we can draw our inspiration from these early Americans. They suffered and lost so much and yet gave a day of genuine rejoicing for the little bit that they did have. How much more gratitude we, who have so much, owe today to our God, our fellow citizens, our country, and our brave service men and women so far from home this holiday.

Barbara and I will be with them, incidentally, Thanksgiving Day -- with some of them over in Saudi Arabia. And I know I'll express what's in the heart of every American when I shake their hands -- young men and young women -- and say: Thank you. Thank you for standing for freedom, for our security, and for peace in our world.

And perhaps their sacrifice will make those of us at home this Thanksgiving Day reflect even more deeply. So that when we give thanks for our food, we will think of those that are ravaged by hunger; when we give thanks for our health, we will think of those imprisoned by pain or illness or despair; when we give thanks for our freedom, we will also think of those who live in darkness or tyranny; when we give thanks for our future, we will think of those who don't know hope. And we will realize that we have two obligations above all others. First: We must not take for granted the blessings of our lives. And second: For our lives to have true meaning, we must share with others. For this holiday reminds us that it's inner riches, not external wealth, by which we are measured. After all, Thanksgiving is not a time of the year, but it really is an attitude of the heart.

Thanks for coming. God bless everyone here, your families, all those being held hostage, and our service men and women here and abroad. And to all you kids, Happy Thanksgiving. I'm glad you came to the White House. Thanks a lot.

Note: The President spoke at 1:42 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Wyatt Upchurch and Stuart Proctor, president and executive vice president of the National Turkey Federation. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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