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Obama grants 'Courage' a pardon

From NBC's Athena Jones
It was a festive atmosphere on the White House North Portico on Wednesday morning for the president's annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon.

Despite the drizzle, dozens of press joined dozens of guests and White House staffers to witness President Obama pardon a 45-pound turkey dubbed Courage, from Goldsboro, NC. Courage will soon head to Dulles Airport for a flight to California where he will be the grand marshal of tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Disneyland.

"You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office and then there are moments like this where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland," the president said to laughter.

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The president, whose young daughters Malia and Sasha stood quietly behind their father as he delivered brief remarks about the history of presidential turkey pardons. He also talked about the importance of recognizing that many Americans across the country are struggling in these tough economic times, saying that at times like these "our many blessings" resonate a bit more powerfully.

"When President Lincoln set aside the National Day of Thanksgiving for the first time -- to celebrate America's 'fruitful fields,' 'healthful skies,' and the 'strength and vigor' of the American people -- it was in the midst of the Civil War, just when the future of our very union was most in doubt," Obama said.

"So think about that," he continued. "When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever. This is an era of new perils and new hardships. But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength."

Obama said he was thankful for the responsibility the American people have placed in him and wished a Happy Thanksgiving to every American and to to every service member at home or in harm's way.

Full of jokes, at one point the president said he and his family had "saved or created four turkeys" by pardoning Courage and an alternate turkey called Carolina and by donating two others to Martha's Table, an organization that helps the needy in Washington. The joke was a reference to the administration's promise that the $787 billion stimulus package would "save or create" millions of jobs.

The First Family will celebrate the holiday weekend here in Washington, DC, with the official White House Christmas Tree to be delivered on Friday, an 18-and-a-half foot Douglas fir from Shepherdstown, WV. It will arrive on the traditional horse-drawn carriage to the North Portico and will be on display in the Blue Room throughout the holiday season, according to the White House.