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Actors and statesmen help spread Thanksgiving cheer in the US

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President elect Barack Obama and his family were among those turning out to help make America's traditional Thanksgiving holiday more cheerful for the less fortunate. On Wednesday the Illinois statesman joined his wife Michelle and daughters Malia ten, and seven-year-old Sasha at a Chicago church, cheerfully shaking hands and telling people "you can call me Barack".

America's future leader has emphasised he wants his girls "to learn the importance of how fortunate they are, and to make sure they're giving back".

At the White House, departing US premier George W Bush was fulfilling an annual event Mr Obama will be called upon to perform next year, the pardoning of the Thanksgiving Day turkey. Following a tradition started in 1963 - when President Kennedy, referring to the live turkey he'd been given said, "Let's just keep him" - two birds named Pumpkin and Pecan were spared from a culinary end and instead, like their predecessors, will live out their lives at a Disneyland ranch in California.

Celebrities were also doing their bit to spread goodwill. Hollywood veteran Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne donned aprons to serve Thanksgiving meals at a soup kitchen in downtown LA. They were joined by Ghost Whisperer actress Jennifer Love Hewitt and Cindy Crawford. "It's a way for us to just put our heads in the right state of mind for being truly thankful," said the model-turned-businesswoman.

Photo: ©
On the eve of the US holiday president-elect Barack Obama and his family gave out food – and festive wishes - to the less fortunate in Chicago Photo: © Rexy
Photo: ©
Meanwhile President Bush was leading a time-honoured White House tradition - the annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey Photo: © Rex
Photo: ©
Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne were helping out at a soup kitchen for the homeless in downtown LA Photo: © Getty images