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Obama takes part in National Day of Service ahead of inauguration

The president and his wife volunteer at an elementary school in Washington as organizers prepare for the swearing-in ceremony.

January 19, 2013|By Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times
  • President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama help stain a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary School in Washington. Joining the Obamas are Jeff Franco and Sheri Fisher of City Year, an AmeriCorps program.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama help stain a bookshelf at… (Martin H. Simon, McClatchy-Tribune )

WASHINGTON — Saying his second inauguration should be an "affirmation that we're all in this together," President Obama spent Saturday volunteering at a local school on a National Day of Service meant to honor slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As the capital hummed with final preparations for the quadrennial spectacle of a presidential inaugural, Obama and the first lady helped stain a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary School in the northeast corner of the District of Columbia.

"There's a huge hunger on the part of young people to get involved and to get engaged," Obama told about 300 people gathered in the school gym.

Across town, Vice President Joe Biden and his family helped assemble care kits for deployed U.S. service members, wounded warriors and veterans. Biden said he and Obama were "on the cusp of doing some really great things."

"The possibilities are immense," he said.

Inaugural planners said National Day of Service activities were being held in all 50 states. The day was chaired by Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Clinton and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Delaware Atty. Gen. Beau Biden, the vice president's son, said volunteerism was at a five-year high "despite all the talk of how divided we are as a nation." Americans spent 8 billion hours in service in 2011, he said.

Later Saturday, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, hosted a Kids' Inaugural Concert that was to feature performances by Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, John Legend, Katy Perry and cast members from "Glee."

Under the 20th Amendment, the president must be sworn in Jan. 20 — so Obama will take the oath of office for his second term Sunday in a private ceremony at the White House. He will repeat the oath and deliver his inaugural address Monday on the steps of the Capitol.

Organizers expect 800,000 people to attend, fewer than half of the 1.8 million that swarmed into Washington for Obama's historic first swearing-in.

Still, the National Mall and streets near the White House were bustling with activity on a clear and unseasonably warm afternoon. Tourists snapped photos as workers applied final coats of paint to the review stand where the first family and guests will watch the Inaugural Parade.

As Obama enters his second term, he gave a nod to local sensibilities. Three vehicles in the president's motorcade carried new license plates Saturday that sported the district's unofficial slogan: "Taxation Without Representation," a protest to the federal district's lack of a voting representative in Congress.

The license plates, which President Clinton also used, demonstrate Obama's commitment to not only full voting rights but full home rule and budget autonomy for city residents, spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday.

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