On the eve of his historic inauguration, U.S. President-elect Barack
Obama is paying tribute to the late African-American civil rights
leader Martin Luther King Jr. by focusing on community service.
The president-elect today (Monday) visited a shelter for
homeless teenagers, where he greeted volunteers, and picked up a paint
roller to help paint the walls. He called for all Americans to get
involved in community projects.
Mr. Obama went on to a stadium where his wife, Michelle Obama, was
helping to assemble care packages for U.S. troops. The incoming
president also visited wounded U.S. troops at Walter Reed Medical
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an annual federal holiday traditionally marked by participating in civic volunteer activities.
Mr. Obama (in a written statement) said today is not
simply a day to reflect on Reverend King's work, but a day to act. He
urged people to turn their service efforts into an ongoing commitment
to enriching their communities and the lives of others.
Mr. Obama is to become the first African-American U.S. president. He
noted that many will gather to witness his historic swearing-in on the
same stretch of park land where people gathered in 1963 to hear
Reverend King speak about racial equality.
Later today, Mr. Obama hosts separate dinners to honor Republican
Senator John McCain, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and former
Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president-elect, will
host a free inaugural concert for young people to honor military
Crowd expectations for Inauguration Day vary from one million to more,
but one person who will not be in attendance is Defense Secretary
Robert Gates, who is to stay on as defense chief in the Obama
The White House today (Monday) announced that Gates is the
"designated successor" who will be at an undisclosed location during
the inauguration. The goal is to ensure the continuity of government in
case something calamitous happens when the outgoing and incoming
presidents are together.
Excitement in Washington is intense on inauguration eve. All around
Washington, final preparations are under way for the historic occasion.
The official celebration began Sunday, with a jubilant celebrity-filled
outdoor concert attended by hundreds of thousands of people.