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Bush Ushers In Thanksgiving Holiday Week

As Americans prepare to gather for their Thanksgiving Holiday, President Bush is reminding them to remember their blessings and help those in need. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, the president traveled to the nearby state of Virginia to make his point.

Usually, the President of the United States marks Thanksgiving with a proclamation, perhaps a low-key visit to a charity center, and a White House photo-opportunity with a live turkey.

But this year, President Bush opted to add on a series of public events, including his first Thanksgiving holiday speech.

Aides say during his travels around the country, the president has met many people who have given of their time and talents to help others. They say he wanted to highlight their contributions this week, and urge others to follow in their footsteps.

So Monday he traveled to the site of one of America's first settlements - historic Berkeley Plantation in central Virginia. In remarks to a crowd of 500 guests, Mr. Bush spoke of the evolution of America since the day when its earliest settlers paused to give thanks centuries ago.

"In the four centuries since the founders of Berkeley first knelt on these grounds, our nation has changed in many ways," the president said. "Our people have prospered, our nation has grown, our Thanksgiving traditions have evolved."

But he said one thing that has not changed is the compassion and generosity of the American people. He spoke of the troops who serve in harm's way and the volunteers who serve the needy. But he told personal stories as well, including a salute to a school principal in one of the poorest neighborhoods in flood-ravaged New Orleans, Louisiana, a woman named Doris Hicks.

"After Katrina many said her school could not return to its building in the lower ninth ward. Principal Hicks had a different point of view. She had a different attitude. She has a uniquely American attitude. She had a vision for a resurgent community with a vibrant school at its heart," he said. "This summer, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology became the first public school to re-open in the lower ninth ward."

Before the speech, the president helped out at a center that distributes donated food to needy families.

On Tuesday, he will carry out one of the more unusual Thanksgiving Day traditions in the United States when he officially pardons a live turkey at the White House. Instead of gracing someone's holiday table, the bird will be part of a holiday parade at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.