Fresh off several weeks of celebrations for his family and political party, a jovial President Joe Biden expressed thanks on Monday as he took part in the annual White House tradition of pardoning turkeys from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.
"The votes are in, they've been counted, verified. There's no ballot stuffing, there's no fowl play," Biden laughed on the White House South Lawn just before freeing the North Carolina-raised 2022 National Thanksgiving Turkey, Chocolate, and Chip, the alternate, from their imminent futures on dinner plates this Thursday.
"The only 'red wave' this season is going to be a German Shepherd, Commander, knocks over the cranberry sauce on our table," he said, in reference to his family's dog, who watched over the turkey pardoning tradition from a nearby balcony, while quipping about the recent strides Democrats made during the 2022 midterm election cycle, during which they deflected what many experts anticipated would be sweeping congressional victories for Republicans. Instead, Democrats were able to maintain control of the Senate while hanging onto additional seats in a now GOP-controlled House.
The birds, which weigh 46 and 47 pounds, were raised by National Turkey Federation chairman Ronnie Parker near Monroe, North Carolina. He hosted the birds, along with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican, among others.
The White House on Saturday celebrated Biden's first-born grandchild Naomi's wedding to fellow Washington lawyer Peter Neal, before observing another landmark on Sunday: the president's 80th birthday.
"It's a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition here at the White House. There's a lot to say about it, but it's chilly outside so I'm gonna keep this short. Nobody likes it when their turkey gets cold," Biden joked during remarks spanning about ten minutes while the temperature dipped to the mid-40s.
NTF is celebrating 75 years of this national Thanksgiving tradition, which dates back to 1947 with President Harry Truman in 1947. Unofficially, reports point all the way back to President Abraham Lincoln, who spared a bird from its demise at the urging of his son, Tad.
The turkey duo was a fitting pair for Biden: his favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate chip.
"Of course, chocolate … is my favorite ice cream," he said, "We could have named them "Chips," and "Science" but anyway, they're good names as well," nodding to another Democrat-led accomplishment from the year, a multibillion-dollar bill to boost domestic computer chip manufacturing and more.
The birds will live out the rest of their lives at North Carolina State University, joining the Wolfpack.
"Now, when we told them they were joining the Wolfpack, they got a little scared, but then we explained it was just a mascot for the school as one of the nation's best poultry science departments in the country," Biden said.
With all the fun and frivolity, Biden did have some more serious thoughts to share on the holiday and the reason for the season, celebrating that this year will see families gather more freely than in years past, when the COVID-19 pandemic inhibited the holiday season.
"We can't forget the reason for Thanksgiving in the first place. The pilgrims taught us it's pretty important in tough times to come together and thank God to be grateful for what we have. That's what the Thanksgiving tradition is all about. Being grateful for what we have and grateful for fellow Americans who we may never meet, but who -- there you go, they're grateful," Biden said, making a pitch for people to get their COVID shots.
"And think about the scientists or researchers, doctors and nurses keeping us safe through the pandemic. Two years ago, we couldn't even safely have Thanksgiving with the large family gatherings."
Biden ended the event with a unifying message for a divided country post-midterm elections:
"Folks. Let's remember, all political fighting goes on, you read about. Let's remember one thing. This is the United States of America," he said.
"The United States of America. There's not a single solitary thing beyond our capacity as a nation, nothing beyond our capacity. If we do it together, united, united."
Following the event on Monday afternoon, Biden and first lady Jill Biden are headed to the turkeys' home state, to the Marine Corps Air station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, for a Friendsgiving celebration with troops and their families.