WASHINGTON—In preparation for Monday’s grand Inauguration Day ceremonies, it seems only fitting that President Barack Obama could be found staining shelves in a D.C. elementary school as the vice president filled care packages for the nation’s servicemen at a nearby armory.
The president and his family joined nearly 500 volunteers at Northeast Washington’s Burville Elementary School Saturday to give the school a makeover, and publicize the administration’s National Day of Service.
“This is really what America is about, this is what we celebrate,” Obama said in a speech at the school.
The National Day of Service is an initiative Obama and the first lady started in 2009 to make volunteering a part of the inauguration weekend.
“This inauguration, it’s a symbol of how our democracy works and how we peacefully transfer power, but it should also be an affirmation that we’re all in this together, and we’ve got to look out for each other, and we’ve got to work hard on behalf of each other,” Obama said.
First lady Michelle Obama said the day sets an example for future generations.
“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,” she said.
This year Inauguration Day coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, also considered a national day of service. Saturday’s National Day of Service was being celebrated not only with hundreds of community events around the District of Columbia but also in cities and towns across the 50 states.
In a military pavilion at the D.C. Armory, volunteers worked hard to achieve the goal of filling 100,000 care packages with donated goods to send to deployed members of the armed services, military families, veterans, and first responders.
Among the volunteers filling the packages were Vice President Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden, and family.
“We still have 68,000 troops in harm’s way in some of the most godforsaken territory in the world,” Biden told volunteers at the event. Servicemen and servicewomen were not expecting anything from folks back home, he said, “but knowing that we remember is an important piece of the equation.”
Sponsored by Points of Light, a volunteer organization initiated by President George W. Bush, the care packages are part of the Operation Gratitude project, which delivers the packages to deployed service members to lift morale and let them know people at home care. The packages include snacks, entertainment, personal items, and letters of support written by volunteers.
“It means a lot,” said Cassandra Klebig, one of many composing their thoughts at letter writing tables in the armory. “I wanted to get involved to try to give back as much as I can,” she said.
Klebig’s brother had served in Afghanistan and had told her how much it had meant to him to receive a card and package while deployed.
Beth and Robert Dewey queued for an hour to participate in the event.
Both felt it was worth it. The National Day of Service reminded them of the importance of giving back and thinking of others, they said.
“We forget to do as much for others as we should,” said Mr. Dewey.
Beth Dewey said the message the day of service sent was significant.
“It is important to serve our country,” she said, adding she was particularly pleased to be helping the armed services.
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