President Obama commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday by leading his administration in performing a day of service in honor of the assassinated civil-rights leader.
Obama, wife Michelle and their daughters visited Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, where the president and first lady helped paint fruit characters in the school cafeteria to encourage better eating habits. Nutrition and fighting childhood obesity are top causes for Michelle Obama, who celebrated her 47th birthday on Monday.
"This is part of what America is all about," Obama told pool reporters. "After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it's good for us to remind ourselves of what this country's all about. This kind of service project is what's best in us. We're thrilled with everybody who's participating."
Obama was referring to the Jan. 8 shooting spree in Tucson. Six were killed and 13 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has shown steady improvement after being wounded in the head. Her condition has been upgraded from critical to serious.
Administration officials including Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill, Cabinet secretaries and senior officials participated in memorial events and community-service projects from Washington to Atlanta and elsewhere, the White House announced.
When the Obama family entered the school lunchroom, they were greeted by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” for he first lady. She hugged her daughter Sasha from behind.“All right let's get to work,” Michelle Obama said. "This is embarrassing.”
The first family then toured the room to observe mentors and their charges from different local programs. In addition to activities boosting the nutrition aspect, many participants were seated at small tables painting college logos “to get kids thinking and talking about higher education.” “Doing great work. Great work,” the president told a group at one table.
“This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King's birthday should be all about,” the president said. “ Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. That's what this program is all about and that's what these participants are all about."