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News4's Tom Sherwood talks to volunteers on the National Day of Service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
President Barack Obama launched the three-day celebration of his second inaugural by helping a District elementary school spiff up its hallways.
The president, along with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, arrived at Burrville Elementary School shortly before noon on Saturday. The first family joined 500 volunteers to help spruce up the school, including helping to stain a bookcase.
Obama added a day of service projects to the inaugural schedule in 2009, and he has said he hopes the event becomes a tradition for future presidents.
The White House sees the call to service as a way for Americans across the country to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. The day Obama takes the oath of office publicly -- Monday -- marks King's birthday, and 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader's March on Washington.
"We think about not so much the inauguration, but we think about this is Dr. King's birthday we're going to be celebrating this weekend," the president said.
"He said everybody wants to be first, everybody wants to be a drum major. But if you're 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."
Michelle Obama said the National Day of Service should be a symbol of the kind of work that needs to be done for the next four years and beyond, according to NBC News.
“For all the young people - and we’ve got a lot of young people…we’re passing the baton onto 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’re pulling somebody up behind you you’re doing the right thing,” said the first lady.
Elsewhere in the District, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton urged people to participate in service projects, saying there's a chain of service that links generations of Americans from all across the country. Clinton said she was inspired by the volunteer work of her grandmother, Dorothy Rodham, who began as a child volunteer teaching migrant workers English and kept up her volunteer efforts for her entire life.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, spent time at an armory pitching in as volunteers packed 100,000 care kits for deployed members of the military, wounded warriors, veterans and first responders.
“Those who serve our men and woman in uniform, our wounded warriors, our veterans and our first responders – they give so much of themselves – and for us, it’s our obligation to give back,” Jill Biden said Saturday. “I hope this is just the first of many of the days that you all volunteer this year and serve your community and our country is something we can do every day all the time for the rest of our lives.”
Also participating in the day's events were celebrities, musicians and television personalities, including Ben Folds, Star Jones and Eva Longoria.
Saturday evening, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden host the Kids' Inaugural Concert, an event paying special tribute to military spouses and children.
The weather in Washington on Saturday was temperate. But temperatures were forecast to fall throughout the weekend and be in the 30s on Monday when the crowds gather along the parade route that will take Obama from Capitol Hill to the White House.
Even as Washington delves into the once-every-four-year celebration of the presidency, there is decidedly less energy surrounding Obama's second inauguration than there was in 2009. That history-making event drew 1.8 million people to the National Mall to watch Obama be sworn in as the nation's first black president.
This year, the crowd estimates are 500,000 to 700,000 and have already been downgraded once.
This weekend, Obama takes the oath of office following a bruising presidential campaign and four years of partisan fighting. He's more experienced in the ways of Washington, and he has the gray hair and lower approval ratings to show for it.
For at least the inauguration weekend, however, the fiscal fights and legislative wrangling will be put aside in favor of pomp and circumstance.
The president was still working on his inaugural address heading into the weekend. He isn't expected to delve deeply into the policy objectives he'll tackle in a second term, but the tone and theme of the speech will set the stage for the policy fights to come.
Aides said he will make the point that while the nation's political system doesn't require politicians to resolve all of their differences, it does require Washington to act on issues where there is common ground. And he will speak about how the nation's core principles can still guide a country that has changed immensely since its founding.