It is a four-day weekend in the U.S. capital city of Washington, with a holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., on Monday and Inauguration Day on Tuesday. The significance of the back-to-back holidays honoring the slain civil rights leader and the swearing-in of the first African-American president is not lost on President-elect Barack Obama. With a solemn tribute to the nation's war dead, and a musical celebration of America's past and future, Barack Obama prepared to take the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States.
Two days before his inauguration, the president-elect made a pilgrimage to a spot many Americans consider holy ground.
At Arlington National Military Cemetery, Barack Obama placed his hand over his heart, in silent tribute to America's war dead.
It was a quiet prelude to four days of celebrations in the Nation's Capital - a welcoming concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, the swearing in on Tuesday, and a prayer service Wednesday morning.
Mr. Obama will take the oath of office as the nation's first African-American president in front of a Capitol built centuries ago by slaves. In an interview on CNN's State of the Union program, he reflected on the significance of the moment.
"If you think about the journey that this country has made, then it cannot help but stir your heart," he said.
He will be sworn in with his hand on a bible used by Abraham Lincoln - the president who ended slavery in the United States. Last Saturday, shortly after he brought his two daughters, Sasha and Malia, to Washington, Mr. Obama took them to the Lincoln Memorial and showed them words from President Lincoln's second inaugural address etched on the stone walls.
"Sasha looks up and she says: 'Boy, that is a long speech, do you have to give one of those?' I said: 'Actually, that one is pretty short, mine may even be a little longer.' At which point then Malia turns to me and says: 'First, African-American president, [it had] better be good," said Mr. Obama.
Incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says Mr. Obama wrote the bulk of the speech last weekend. During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Gibbs gave a preview.
"I think the themes that you will hear on Tuesday around noon will be very familiar to people that have watched the campaign. But they will be heavily infused with this notion of responsibility, and getting our country back on track," said Mr. Gibbs.
Mr. Obama will inherit a nation at war and in the midst of an economic crisis. Top aides stress one of his first acts as president will be to sit down with military leaders to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan. They also note work on his economic recovery package began weeks before Inauguration Day.
Obama senior advisor David Axelrod told ABC's This Week that getting the massive plan through Congress is a priority.
"We believe this is a well conceived approach to the problem we face. It is extraordinary and painful to have to do in terms of our debt. But it is something we have to do," said Axelrod.
Public opinion polls show high levels of support for the incoming president and dramatic action to get the economy back on track.
Enthusiasm for Mr.Obama is translating into large crowds for inaugural events - perhaps as many as two million people for the swearing-in ceremony.
Security is already high in the central part of Washington, D.C. where the festivities are taking place. By Tuesday, major streets and bridges leading to the area will be closed to all but official vehicles. Among them: a new presidential limousine already seen ferrying the Obama family around town, with the license plate number "44."