Americans roll up sleeves in day of service before inauguration

WASHINGTON Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:17am IST

Katy Perry performs under a photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama at the Kids Inaugural concert for children and military families, one of the events ahead of the second-term inauguration of President Obama in Washington January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Katy Perry performs under a photograph of U.S. President Barack Obama at the Kids Inaugural concert for children and military families, one of the events ahead of the second-term inauguration of President Obama in Washington January 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - From sprucing up hiking trails to painting schools, Americans across the country, including President Barack Obama and his family, took part in a national day of service on Saturday to help kick off presidential inauguration ceremonies.

The day honors the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who famously said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" Obama will be publicly sworn in for a second term on Monday, which is also a national holiday honoring King.

Before his first inauguration in 2009, Obama urged Americans to spend part of January 19 helping others by volunteering. This year, the Presidential Inaugural Committee asked people both to volunteer on Saturday and pledge to do more service work throughout the year.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, accompanied by their daughters, Malia and Sasha, rolled up their sleeves to spruce up an elementary school in Washington. After varnishing some bookshelves, both Obamas spoke to about 300 other volunteers and noted the importance of getting young people to get in the habit of helping out.

"I want to say thank you to the parents, for showing early on to all our young people how gratifying, how fulfilling this is," Obama said. His wife added, "We're passing on the baton to you all."

Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton, helped launch a volunteer fair on Washington's National Mall.

"The national day of service is a wonderful way to honor the legacy of Doctor King, to kick off this inaugural weekend," said Biden, the attorney general of Delaware and an Iraq war veteran.

"Despite all the talk of how divided we are as a nation, more and more Americans are coming together to serve each other every day. Volunteerism in America is at a five-year high," Biden said, noting that Americans spent 8 billion hours giving back to their communities in 2011.

Service projects were set up in all 50 states, and the inaugural committee offered links online to find projects ranging from clearing invasive plants from a hiking trail to feeding the hungry to putting together packages for U.S. troops overseas.

Sharon Mudd, a high school English teacher in Maryland, went to the National Mall to get some ideas for her students.

"I want to make sure that they realize that with privilege comes responsibility," she said.

Memona and Huda Shahid, 17-year-old twins from Chicago, were at the National Mall as part of a high school trip to Washington.

"As young adults, you get experience volunteering. For example, we want to study medicine, so we volunteered in a hospital," said Memona. "The important thing - when you volunteer do it from the heart."

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Taiwan Crash

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Gaza Conflict

Gaza Conflict

Gaza bloodshed deepens, airlines shun Israel.  Full Article 

Day of Grief

Day of Grief

First of flight MH17 victims' remains arrive in the Netherlands.  Full Article 

War Crimes

War Crimes

U.N.'s Pillay says Israel may be committing war crimes.  Full Article 

Rise Of Islamic State

Rise Of Islamic State

Young Islamic State robs al Qaeda of militant prestige.  Full Article 

Korean Fugitive

Korean Fugitive

South Korea ferry fugitive hid behind cabin wall, bags of cash at hand.  Full Article 

Journey to Scrapyard

Journey to Scrapyard

Wrecked Concordia finally headed for scrapyard after massive salvage operation.  Full Article 

Airspace to Avoid

Airspace to Avoid

Places of conflict around the world with restrictions on air travel.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage