Office of the Press Secretary

Cross Hall

2:32 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Normally we do this outside.  The weather is not cooperating today.  But I want to, first of all, on behalf of Malia and Sasha, wish everybody an early Happy Thanksgiving.  I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month.  (Laughter.)  Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority -- (laughter) -- the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me -- to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.  (Laughter.)   

I want to thank Joel Brandenberger, the president of the National Turkey Federation; Gary Cooper, its chairman; and his son Cole Cooper, who personally raised Mac and Cheese.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Cole is keeping a pretty careful eye there on Cheese.  (Laughter.)  Uh-oh, he’s getting pretty excited about this.

Thanks to all those who voted online to pick the official National Thanksgiving Turkey.  Cheese wants you to know that he won.  (Laughter.)  Mac, the alternate, is not so badly off either.  Let’s face it -- if you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish -- (laughter) -- your chances of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low.  So these guys are well ahead of the curve.  They really beat the odds.

It is important to know that turkeys have always had powerful allies.  Many of you know that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country.  He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.”  (Laughter.)  I think these two turkeys would agree with Mr. Franklin.  And they’ll get to live out the rest of their days, respectably, at a Virginia estate with 10,000 {sic} acres of roaming space. 

I know some will call this amnesty -- (laughter) -- but don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around.  (Laughter.) In fact, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia and Sasha and I will take two turkeys that didn’t make the cut to a local food pantry that works hard year-round to make sure that folks in our Nation’s Capital have food to eat and clothes to wear.  I want to thank Jaindl Turkey Farm in Pennsylvania for donating once again those birds for -- it's, in fact, been six years in a row that they’ve made these contributions -- and for making Thanksgiving dinner possible for some of our fellow Americans.

Finally, The Washington Post recently questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition.  “Typically on the day before Thanksgiving,” the story went, “the man who makes decisions about wars, virus outbreaks, terrorism cells and other dire matters of state, chooses to pardon a single turkey … plus an alternate.”

Tell me about it.  It is a little puzzling that I do this every year.  (Laughter.)  But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it's nice once in a while just to say:  Happy Thanksgiving.  And this is a great excuse to do it. 

Tomorrow is a pretty special moment when we give thanks for the people we love, and where we're mindful of the incredible blessings that we have received.  We remember the folks who can’t spend their holiday at home, especially the brave men and women in uniform who help keep our country secure.  And we celebrate a holiday that, at its best, is about what makes this nation great -- and that's its generosity and its openness, and, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said, our commitment, “to make a country in which no one is left out.

Now, because I know everyone wants to get out of town, Mac and Cheese included -- (laughter) -- it is time for me to engage in the official act.  So let’s see what we can do here with Cheese.

Come on, girls.  (Laughter.)  All right, are we ready?  Cheese, you are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table.  (Laughter.)  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

He looks pretty happy about it.  (Laughter.)  All right, if you want to take Cheese down, that's okay.  (Laughter.)  I will tell you, though, turkeys don't have the best-looking heads.  (Laughter.)  You know what I'm saying?  You think they’re beautiful? 
MR. COOPER:  I think they’re beautiful -- they’re red, white and blue --
THE PRESIDENT:  There’s a patriotism element to it.  (Laughter.)  Absolutely.  (To Malia and Sasha) -- Do you want to pet him? 
MALIA:  No.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Good to see you.  Appreciate you.
Thank you, everybody.  Happy Thanksgiving.  (Applause.) 

                       END              2:38 P.M. EST

A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson

A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.
At a news conference, the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, said that members of the grand jury deliberated for more than two days before finding that no probable cause existed to file charges against Officer Wilson.
The decision set off a new wave of anger among hundreds who gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department. Police in riot gear stood in a line as demonstrators chanted and threw signs and other objects toward them as the news spread. One woman said: “The system failed us again.”

Murdered civil rights workers get Presidential Medal of Freedom today

Murdered civil rights workers get Presidential Medal of Freedom today
For More Award Recipients CLICK HERE

Democrats imploded today

Proving that the spirit of bipartisanship isn't dead, the 113th Congress is pretending it's the 114th Congress by approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. Several Senate Democrats didn't vote for Harry Reid to be minority leader -- which is to say, several Democrats will soon know what the true meaning of suffering is. And proving that some things never change, House Democrats managed to alienate a core constituency, splinter into factions and engage in finger pointing 

 "Legislation to force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline picked up support Thursday as more Democratic senators signed on to Sen. Mary Landrieu's effort. ... The Senate can probably muster 60 votes if most the Democrats who have previously endorsed the pipeline vote in favor. Landrieu's bill has 10 Democratic co-sponsors, and a handful of other Democrats have previously expressed support for Keystone and could vote for the bill. The Hill reported Thursday that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he would support it, and John Rizzo, communications director for Sen. Bob Casey, told The Huffington Post Thursday that the Pennsylvania Democrat would also vote yes. Their votes would put Landrieu at 59 votes, with several other Democrats still on the fence." [HuffPost


 President Barack Obama went public with his support of an aggressive approach to protecting net neutrality. Shortly after that, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler told a gathering of business representatives and public interest groups that he was taking the president's comments under advisement and that he would need the groups' support in the coming fight over net neutrality, according to multiple sources in the meeting... One attendee, who declined to be named in order to avoid speaking on behalf of his organization, said that he thought Wheeler would ultimately go along with Obama. 'Personally, my sense coming out of the meeting was it was more likely than not that he would end up doing what the president asked,' the attendee said." [HuffPost

KKK Promising To Use Lethal Force Against Ferguson Protesters

The Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan started distributing a flier in the St. Louis area promising to use lethal force against any protesters in Ferguson they deem to be violent. Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the chapter, spoke with theRiverfront Times regarding the flier and the intentions of the KKK in Ferguson as large-scale protests loom with the approaching grand jury announcement in the Darren Wilson case. Ancona not only claimed that the protesters are “terrorists,” but he also said recruitment for the chapter has soared in the wake of the protests that began in August after unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Wilson

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GOP looking to take out Sen. Harry Reid in 2016

 "Senate Republicans, riding high after capturing the majority, said Wednesday that a top priority in 2016 will be defeating Democratic leader Harry Reid. 'It's not just about being in the majority, it's about expanding the majority at this point,' Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told reporters. "We'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.' ... In 2016, Republicans will be trying to protect 24 seats to the Democrats' 10. Heller said he and other Republicans have spoken to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who easily won another term last week, about challenging Reid. 'I think he'll want to assess and we'll give him a little time to do that,' Heller said of Sandoval. Other potential challengers are newly elected Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Rep. Joe Heck." [AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is under consideration for a leadership position

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is under consideration for a leadership position in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. 
Senate Democrats will be holding their leadership elections Thursday morning. A source saw Warren coming out of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) officeWednesday." [HuffPost's Amanda Terkel and Ryan Grim


- All possible candidates will be interviewed aboard his combine. Politico: "Senate Democratic leaders are likely to name Montana Sen. Jon Tester to run the party’s campaign arm in the 2016 election cycle, a key position central to the party’s efforts to retake the majority, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations… 'If it were offered, I would absolutely take a look at it and see if we can make it work,' said Tester after leaving a morning meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). 'It would allow me to get in our leadership meetings, which is very important to me. Raising money is never fun, but that’s part of the job too. So I guess you take the good with the bad.'... A decision to name Tester to the post could come as soon as Thursday, Democratic sources said." [Politico

America is officially Ebola-free

You can put away your hazmat suits, rubber gloves and face masks: There are zero active cases of Ebola in the United States.

America became officially free of the deadly virus Tuesday with the release of Dr. Craig Spencer, the New York physician who fell ill with Ebola almost three weeks ago following a medical trip to Guinea, where the 33-year-old was treating the disease.

The U.S. and China just struck a historic climate change deal

The U.S. and China just struck a historic climate change deal

Pesident Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled ambitious new targets for greenhouse gas reductions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing on Tuesday night after months of secret negotiations.

Obama unveiled a new plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. Earlier in his presidency, had Obama set a goal to cut emissions by 17% by 2020, compared to 2005.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, agreed to the government's first-ever far-reaching agreement to cap its rapidly growing carbon emissions by 2030, according to the Washington Post. China also committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuels to 20% of the country’s energy mix by the same year.

President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

 President Barack Obama named nineteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House on November 24th.

President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nation’s highest civilian honor.  From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Alvin Ailey (posthumous)
Ailey was a choreographer, dancer, and the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is renowned for its inspiring performances in 71 countries on 6 continents since 1958.  Ailey’s work was groundbreaking in its exploration of the African American experience and the enrichment of the modern dance tradition, including his beloved American masterpieceRevelations.  The Ailey organization, based in New York City, carries on his pioneering legacy with performances, training, educational, and community programs for people of all backgrounds.

Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende is a highly acclaimed author of 21 books that have sold 65 million copies in 35 languages. She has been recognized with numerous awards internationally. She received the prestigious National Literary Award in Chile, her country of origin, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Tom Brokaw
Tom Brokaw is one of America’s most trusted and respected journalists. Mr. Brokaw served as anchor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004, and is currently a Special Correspondent for NBC News. For decades, Mr. Brokaw has reached millions of Americans in living rooms across the country to provide depth and analysis to historic moments as they unfold, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the terrorist attacks of 9-11. His reporting has been recognized by the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, eleven Emmys, and two Peabody awards. Mr. Brokaw previously served as anchor of NBC’s Today, and following the death of his close friend Tim Russert, Mr. Brokaw took overMeet the Press during the 2008 campaign season.   He has written five books including The Greatest Generation, a title that gave name to those who served in World War II at home and abroad.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (posthumous)
James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were civil rights activists and participants in “Freedom Summer,” an historic voter registration drive in 1964.  As African Americans were systematically being blocked from voter rolls, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Goodman, and Mr. Schwerner joined hundreds of others working to register black voters in Mississippi.  They were murdered at the outset of Freedom Summer. Their deaths shocked the nation and their efforts helped to inspire many of the landmark civil rights advancements that followed.

Mildred Dresselhaus
Mildred Dresselhaus is one of the most prominent physicists, materials scientists, and electrical engineers of her generation.  A professor of physics and electrical engineering at MIT, she is best known for deepening our understanding of condensed matter systems and the atomic properties of carbon, which has contributed to major advances in electronics and materials research.

John Dingell
John Dingell is a lifelong public servant, the longest serving Member of Congress in American history, and one of the most influential legislators in history. Having represented Michigan in the House of Representatives since 1955, Mr. Dingell has fought for landmark pieces of legislation over the past six decades, from civil rights legislation in the 1960s, to legislation protecting our environment in the 1970s, to his persistent, determined fight for health care throughout his career, from Medicare to the Affordable Care Act.  Mr. Dingell also served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Ethel Kennedy
Ethel Kennedy has dedicated her life to advancing the cause of social justice, human rights, environmental protection, and poverty reduction by creating countless ripples of hope to effect change around the world.  Over 45 years ago, she founded the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, which is dedicated to realizing her husband’s dream of a more just and peaceful world. Ethel Kennedy was most recently honored for her longtime advocacy of environmental causes in neglected areas of Washington, D.C. with the dedication of the “Ethel Kennedy Bridge” over the Anacostia River.

Suzan Harjo
Suzan Harjo is a writer, curator, and activist who has advocated for improving the lives of Native peoples throughout her career.  As a member of the Carter Administration and as current president of the Morning Star Institute, she has been a key figure in many important Indian legislative battles, including the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.  Dr. Harjo is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, and a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

Abner Mikva
Abner Mikva is a dedicated public servant who has served with distinction in all three branches of government.  He was a five-term Congressman from Illinois, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton. He has also served as a law professor at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois.

Patsy Takemoto Mink
Patsy Takemoto Mink was a Congresswoman from Hawai'i, serving a total of 12 terms. She was born and raised on Maui, became the first Japanese American female attorney in Hawai'i, and served in the Hawai'i territorial and state legislatures beginning in 1956. In 1964, she became the first woman of color elected to Congress. She is best known for co-authoring and championing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Edward Roybal (posthumous)
Edward R. Roybal was the first Mexican-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California in nearly a century. In 1976, he founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, creating a national forum for Latino issues and opening doors for a new generation of Latino leaders. 

Charles Sifford
Charles Sifford was a professional golfer who helped to desegregate the Professional Golfers’ Association, despite harassment and death threats. He started his life on the links as a caddy, and though he was formally excluded from the PGA for much of his career because of the color of his skin, he won six National Negro Opens. In 1960, he won his challenge over the PGA’s “Caucasian only” membership policy. He went on to win official PGA events and the PGA Seniors’ Championship. He was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of St. Andrews in 2006.

Robert Solow
Robert Solow is one of the most widely respected economists of the past sixty years. His research in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s transformed the field, laying the groundwork for much of modern economics.  He continues to influence policy makers, demonstrating how smart investments, especially in new technology, can build broad-based prosperity, and he continues to actively participate in contemporary debates about inequality and economic growth.  He is a Nobel laureate, winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1987.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim is one of the country’s most influential theater composers and lyricists.  His work has helped define American theater with shows such as Company, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods.  Mr. Sondheim has won eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep is one of the most widely known and acclaimed actors in history.  Ms. Streep has captured our imaginations with her unparalleled ability to portray a wide range of roles and attract an audience that has only grown over time, portraying characters who embody the full range of the human experience.  She holds the record for most Academy Award nominations of any actor in history.

Marlo Thomas
Marlo Thomas is an award-winning actress, producer, best-selling author and social activist. Whether championing equality for girls and women, giving voice to the less fortunate, breaking barriers by portraying one of television’s first single working women on That Girl, or teaching children to be “Free to Be You and Me,” Thomas inspires us all to dream bigger and reach higher. Thomas serves as National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on pediatric cancer and children's catastrophic diseases. The hospital was founded by her father, Danny Thomas, in 1962.   

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder is one of the world’s most gifted singer-songwriters.  Mr. Wonder has created a sound entirely his own, mixing rhythm and blues with genres ranging from rock and roll to reggae, and demonstrating his mastery of a range of instruments, styles, and themes.  He is also a Kennedy Center Honoree, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and winner of 25 Grammys and an Academy Award.