WASHINGTON – President Obama is heading up a National Day of Service in a whirlwind weekend of inaugural events that mark the end of his historic first term and the start of his second.
Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, will set the tone for the weekend with a service event today. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will also volunteer in the Washington area.
Obama added a day of service projects to the inaugural schedule in 2009, and he’s hoping the event becomes a tradition for future presidents.
On Monday, there will be formal balls, an inaugural parade and, of course, the president’s address from the steps of the Capitol.
Even as Washington delves into the once-every-four-years 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 time around, Obama takes the oath of office after 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, the fiscal fights and legislative wrangling will be put aside in favor of pomp and circumstance.
The White House did not say in advance what Obama’s service project would be for today. In 2009, he helped spruce up a shelter for homeless teens in one of Washington’s poorer neighborhoods, then visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
In an effort to expand the day of service, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton will headline a volunteer summit on the National Mall and the inaugural committee has organized volunteer events in all 50 states.
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.
Obama’s swearing-in Monday at the Capitol is expected to draw 800,000 people, which would make it the largest second presidential inaugural ever.
The president was still working on his inaugural address heading into the weekend. 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. He is also expected to speak about how the nation’s core principles can still guide a country that has changed immensely since its founding.