Lucky Turkey! President Obama Spares a Thanksgiving Bird from Dinner Table

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.

Courage and Carolina were given a good-luck sendoff in North Carolina on Monday and since then have been holed up at the swank Willard Hotel in Washington, the same hotel where Indian Prime Minister Singh is staying while in town for a state visit.

"Back home I was in a meeting and I said something about staying at the Willard and someone said, 'Oh, that's fabulous,' and I said, 'Well, the turkeys are, too,' and they did not believe that," Worley said.

The Worleys will be at the White House today for the ceremony and will accompany the turkeys to California.

Tradition of Presidential Thanksgiving Turkey Dates Back to Lincoln

There is some question over when the first presidential turkey pardon actually occurred, according to presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, who said the tradition may have its origins in the White House of Abraham Lincoln.

Smith said Lincoln's son Tad befriended a turkey and lobbied his father to save it from ending up as dinner. Lincoln, being "kindhearted as he was," agreed and "that's one of the first presidential turkey pardons," Smith said.

President Harry Truman is credited with granting the first presidential pardon to a turkey in the modern era, back in 1947. He was the first president to be presented with a Thanksgiving bird by the National Turkey Federation.

But in fact, Smith said, Truman may have actually just received the turkey and not given the official reprieve.

"We know, because there are photographs, wonderful photographs, of presidents going back to Harry Truman, being presented a turkey," Smith said. He said the Trumans were "presented a couple of turkeys, ostensibly for their dinner."

Smith said the first known "official" turkey pardon was in 1989, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, when he used the word "pardon" at his annual Thanksgiving turkey event.

"Let me assure you and this fine Tom Turkey that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table -- not this guy," Bush said on Nov. 17, 1989. "He's granted a presidential pardon as of right now and ... allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here."

His son, former President George W. Bush, enjoyed the annual tradition and hammed it up each year with the pardoned turkey.

In 2001, Bush nearly got pecked by one feisty bird who was sitting unrestrained on a table in the Rose Garden.

Lesson learned. In subsequent years the pardoned turkey has been held by a handler to avoid any incidents.

Bush even used the turkey pardon to play up the dark side of his vice president, Dick Cheney. Presenting the pardoned turkeys in 2007, Bush noted that they were named "May and Flower," a tribute to the Pilgrims.

"They're certainly better than the names the vice president suggested, which was Lunch and Dinner," Bush said.

Even though Courage and Carolina will be spared from becoming dinner, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked Obama to ensure that the pardoned turkeys "receive the care necessary to give them the lengthy, happy lives they deserve" and send them to an animal sanctuary instead of Disneyland.

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