In an annual tradition played out for a half century, since Harry Truman was president, Clinton accepted the National Thanksgiving Day turkey and pardoned it from the "ultimate sacrifice".
"Now this marks the 50th year when we give one more turkey in Washington a second chance," Mr Clinton said in a Rose Garden ceremony at which the giant white bird sat placidly on a table, swivelling its red-waddled head around.
The 28-week-old turkey, named Willis for the man who raised him, came from the Tarheel Turkey Hatchery in Raeford, North Carolina, and had spent Tuesday night in the Hotel Washington. It was presented to Mr Clinton by the National Turkey Federation before an audience that included children from a depressed area of Washington who participate in the Horton's Kids program, in which volunteers provide tutoring to about 200 kids.
Clinton ordered Willis taken to Kidwell Farm in Herndon, Virginia, a replica of a Thirties working farm near Washington where children can see it and other surviving turkeys from past presidential reprieves.
"He's on his way to a farm in Virginia to bask in the sun, collect his hard-earned pension, and enjoy his golden years," Mr Clinton said.
The Clintons, with their daughter, Chelsea, and close family, are travelling to the Camp David presidential retreat for the weekend, where they will have a traditional Thanksgiving of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and vegetables - and, according to Hillary Clinton, "pumpkin pie and mincemeat pie and probably another fruit pie, probably an apple pie".
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