WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama pardoned two turkeys in an annual Thanksgiving rite on Wednesday, saying he wanted to offer the birds a second chance.
"They say life is full of second chances, and this November I couldn't agree more with that sentiment," a smiling Obama said in one of several lighthearted references to his re-election this month to a second term.
Cobbler, the newly designated national turkey, and his alternate, Gobbler, received a reprieve.
"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward!" Obama said in a reference to his campaign slogan of "Forward."
Obama noted that Cobbler and Gobbler were selected by the American people, who cast their votes for the national Thanksgiving turkey on the White House Facebook page.
"Once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it," Obama said, referring to the New York Times blogger who correctly predicted the president's decisive victory in the Electoral College.
Accompanied by daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama waved his hand over Cobbler in a vaguely religious "dispensation," then laughed as the bird gobbled loudly. Obama and Sasha petted the turkey. Malia did not.
"Congratulations, Cobbler. You're going to have a great life," Obama said.
The 19-week-old, 40-pound turkeys are from Rockingham County, Va. They will live at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, along with last year's birds, Liberty and Peace.
Thanks to the American people, "the only cobbler anyone's eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream," Obama said.
On a more serious note, Obama asked Americans to remember those in the Northeast who lost their homes, possessions and loved ones to Superstorm Sandy. Obama, who toured New York and New Jersey after the storm, said he has seen much destruction, "but I have yet to find a broken spirit."
Later the Obamas took a motorcade to the Capital Area Food Bank, continuing their annual Thanksgiving tradition of participating in a service project there. They were joined by family and friends, including members of the Oregon State men's basketball team, which is coached by the first lady's brother, Craig Robinson. The Obamas were to pack and distribute bags of food to children and seniors served by the food bank.
The tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey at the White House started with President John F. Kennedy in 1963.