National Turkey Federation Chairman Presents National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama

November 25, 2015
Washington, DC
National Turkey Federation Chairman Dr. Jihad Douglas looks on as President Barack Obama receives the National Thanksgiving Turkey.  California turkey rancher Joe Hedden is pictured at left.

President Barack Obama received the National Thanksgiving Turkey named “Abe” from National Turkey Federation Chairman Dr. Jihad Douglas Wednesday afternoon at the White House. The event marks the 68th anniversary of the presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey in celebration of a uniquely American holiday.

“We go through challenging times, and so often the news of the day can make folks discouraged. But the fact is, is that we live in the greatest country on Earth, and we are blessed in so many ways, most of all because we have families and friends and people we care about,” said President Obama.  “We look out for each other.  We look out for our neighbors and our friends.  We’re grateful for the brave men and women of our military who serve all around the world, and for the families that miss them.  I’m especially grateful to have the privilege and the honor to serve as your President.”

“This is an exceptional honor to be invited by the President as we celebrate Thanksgiving and welcome the entire holiday season,” said Douglas, president of Aviagen Turkeys. “America leads with an abundance of blessings shared by today’s remarkable agriculture production and symbolized by the tradition of the National Thanksgiving Turkey.”  

Douglas’ wife, Hala Kawkabani, and their families also joined President Obama at the White House Rose Garden for the annual presentation.

In keeping with custom, the president “pardoned” the National Thanksgiving Turkey, “Abe”, and its alternate, “Honest”.  California school children suggested names for consideration. Both birds were raised under Douglas’ direction on a Foster Farms’ turkey ranch in the heart of California’s Central Valley. For the presentation, Douglas selected the Nicholas breed of turkey that originated in Sonoma Valley, typical of the broad-breasted white feathered variety produced by Aviagen Turkeys, Inc.     

The two turkeys’ arrived aboard United Airlines’ flight “Turkey One” on Monday evening at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC began their overnight stay at the Willard InterContinental, adjacent to the White House. Costs for lodging the guests and the turkeys are always paid for by the National Turkey Federation.  After the White House presentation, the turkeys reside at Morven Park in Leesburg, Va.  Open to the public year-round, the 1,000-acre historic site was home to one of the largest turkey operations in the country during the 1930s, under the ownership of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis.

Jaindl Turkey Farms of Orefield, Pa. supplied two dressed turkeys as part of the First Family’s donation to local food banks in observance of Thanksgiving.