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Obama Sends Thanksgiving Greetings

President Barack Obama leans over to listens to hear a child speak as he helps pack food for Thanksgiving at Martha's Table, a local food pantry in Washington, 24 Nov., 2010

Like millions of other Americans, President Barack Obama is celebrating the Thanksgiving Day holiday Thursday by sharing a traditional dinner with family and friends. The president is also calling on Americans to support each other through two wars and high unemployment.

Thanksgiving at the White House was a larger version of the scene at millions of American homes on Thursday. President Obama spent the day with his family, friends and staff.

The meal included foods traditionally eaten on Thanksgiving: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other festive food. Activities included watching American-style football on television.

Earlier in the day, in his weekly address, the president encouraged Americans to care for their neighbors who are affected by war or unemployment.

"As long as many of our sons and daughters and husbands and wives are at war, we have got to support their mission and honor their service," said he president. "And, as long as many of our friends and neighbors are looking for work, we have got to do everything we can to accelerate this recovery and keep our economy moving forward. And we will."

Mr. Obama also made phone calls to 10 members of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, wishing them a happy holiday and thanking them for their service.

The president said he hopes Democrats, Republicans and Independents can put aside their differences in the months ahead and work together to improve the economy.

Some Americans volunteer to feed the hungry and homeless on Thanksgiving, as the Obama family did on Wednesday. In his weekly address, the president praised those who do.

"This is also a holiday that captures that distinctly American impulse to give something of ourselves. Even as we speak, there are countless Americans serving at soup kitchens and food pantries, contributing to their communities, and standing guard around the world," he said.

Mr. Obama started his celebration on Wednesday with a light-hearted ceremony: the annual presidential pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey.

Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, is pictured before being pardoned by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House, 24 Nov 2010
Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, is pictured before being pardoned by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House, 24 Nov 2010

"As President of the United States, you are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table," Mr. Obama declared.

The president laughed and joked as he inspected the turkey, from a farm in California, which was spared the fate of slaughter at Thanksgiving and will be allowed to live on a farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia, the home of the first U.S. president, George Washington.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says more than 45 million other turkeys are not as lucky.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is usually one of the biggest days of the year in U.S. stores. Many shoppers take advantage of big discounts and extended store hours to start their Christmas shopping.

Also on Friday, the official White House Christmas Tree arrives on a horse-drawn carriage. First Lady Michelle Obama will supervise the ceremonial delivery of the 5.6 meter-tall Douglas Fir from a farm in Pennsylvania.