Washington (CNN) -- A big bird from the East is heading west, thanks to a second chance at life given by President Obama in the nation's capital Wednesday, a day before Americans sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.
In a holiday tradition, the president pardoned the turkey at the White House, saving it from ending up as Thanksgiving dinner.
This is the first turkey pardon for Obama. He appeared at the ceremony with his two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
The president granted the pardon to a turkey from North Carolina named Courage. The North Carolina governor's office Web site says that after the ceremony, the turkey will fly west to Disneyland to participate in the 121st annual Rose Parade on New Year's Day.
Obama thanked the National Turkey Federation for donating this year's turkeys, Courage and Carolina. Carolina is an alternate turkey who came along in case Courage was unable to fulfill his responsibilities.
The president wished a happy Thanksgiving to the American people.
"When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow," he said, "just like millions of other families across America, we'll take time to give our thanks for many blessings, but we'll also remember that this is the time when so many members of our American family are hurting."
"There is no question this has been a tough year for America. We're at war, our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery," Obama said.
"In more tranquil times, it's easy to notice our many blessings; it's even easier to take them for granted. But in times like these, they resonate a bit more powerfully," the president said.
Later during the day, the president and his family will go to Martha's Table, an organization based in Washington that helps communities in need by donating food, clothing and offering other opportunities. There, they will donate two turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner.
The poultry industry has given the White House a turkey each year since the presidency of Harry Truman, but the tradition of officially pardoning a turkey didn't begin until 1989, when George H.W. Bush took office and pardoned one.
CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Jamie Crawford contributed to the report.