At the White House today, President Obama gave one lucky turkey a second chance at life, saving it from ending up as Thanksgiving dinner.
Obama issued a presidential pardon to Courage, a 20-week-old, 45-pound turkey from Princeton, N.C .
The president, joined by daughters Sasha and Malia at his side, told a crowd of invited guests at the White House this morning that some presidents actually ate their turkeys.
"You can't fault them for that. It's a good lookin' bird," Obama said.
"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."
Each year more than 45 million turkeys end up on Thanksgiving dinner tables across the United States, according to the National Turkey Federation. And every year since 1947, according to historians, one lucky bird has been spared that fate due to a presidential pardon.
Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith told ABC News that while the Constitution does not enumerate the presidential power of a turkey pardon, the annual event is one of the ceremonial functions that have developed over the years and is now part of this country's Thanksgiving tradition.
"I suspect it's not one of the reasons why people spend two years of their lives in Holiday Inns running for the presidency," Smith said. "But along with war and peace and recession and Supreme Court nominations you get to pardon a turkey every year."
"I hereby pardon Courage so that he can live out the rest of his days in peace and tranquility in Disneyland," Mr. Obama said, looking over at the white-feathered bird.
If for some reason Courage the Turkey was not able to live up to his "official duties" (which essentially consisted of sitting there and not biting the president), an alternate, Carolina, was nearby and ready to step in.
Later today, the two turkeys will enjoy a luxurious first-class flight to freedom -- in their case, Southern California where they will take part in the Thanksgiving Day parade at Disneyland on Thursday.
Courage will serve as the parade's honorary grand marshal, and the two turkeys then will live out their days at the park's Frontierland.
Courage and Carolina were raised on the Bryant Worley Family Farm in Princeton.
Debbie Worley told ABC News that she believes her family was selected to raise the prestigious pardoned turkey because her large family was able to prepare the turkey to be around crowds.
Worley said they started out with 20 turkeys this summer to see which would be best able to work with people (meaning, not have an incident with the president.)
From that large group, the Worleys narrowed it down to two: Courage and Carolina.
"We started out simply by our grandchildren coming into the pen and playing with them with an adult, a supervisor," Worley said. "We would pick the turkeys up and put them on our lap and rub the back and that's how we did it for probably the first two weeks. From there a little more interaction with them to the point that we could pick them up and put them on a table like they will be doing in the Rose Garden."
Worley said her grandchildren would stand beside the table and sing "a lot" to the turkey.
Courage's favorite song?
"'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,'" Worley said, laughing.