WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Barack Obama has started several days of festivities surrounding his second inauguration by taking part in a community service project. The president hopes the National Day of Service becomes an inaugural tradition.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, spent part of Saturday painting a bookshelf at an elementary school in Washington. The visit was intended to show support for Americans who volunteer to provide service to their communities.
As the president prepares to be sworn in for a second four-year term, he said he intends to use the occasion to call attention to the many ways Americans help each other.
“This is really what America is about. This is what we celebrate. This inauguration, it is a symbol of how our democracy works and how we peacefully transfer power," said Obama. "But it should also be an affirmation that we are all in this together, and that we have got to look out for each other and work hard on behalf of each other.”
Monday’s public inauguration ceremony coincides with the national holiday honoring the African-American civil rights leader, [Dr.] Martin Luther King, Jr. Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, paraphrased a quote from King in encouraging Americans to be leaders in serving their communities.
“I am always reminded that he [King] said, ‘Everybody wants to be first, everybody wants to be a drum major, but if you are going to be a drum major, be a drum major for service, be a drum major for justice, be a drum major for looking out for other people.’”
The theme of this year’s inauguration ceremonies is “Faith in America’s Future.” First lady Michelle Obama sounded a similar theme in calling on others to help the next generation.
“We are passing the baton on to you all. So the goal is that as you make your way through life, who are you pulling up behind you? And as long as you are pulling somebody up behind you, you are doing the right thing,” she said.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, also took part in a National Day of Service project in Washington on Saturday, packing care kits for members of the military.
Biden said he believes the United States is “on the cusp of doing some really great things.”
Obama launched the first National Day of Service in conjunction with his first inauguration in 2009. He has said his intent is for the event to become a traditional part of inaugural festivities.
The president takes the official oath of office Sunday, in a private ceremony at the White House.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that presidential terms end at noon on January 20. Because that date this year falls on a Sunday, the traditional American day of rest, the public swearing-in, along with the president’s speech and the inaugural parade, will be held on Monday.