Obama Calls Americans to Day of Service

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On the eve of his inauguration as the nation's first black President, Barack Obama spent the day in service, honoring the very man who helped pave the way for such a historical event.

Obama kicked off Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There he met with 14 U.S. soldiers recovering from injuries they received in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more "presidential inaugural firsts" watch Historian Jane Hampton Cook, following this report. Stay with CBNNews.com throughout Tuesday, Jan. 20, for our special Inauguration Day coverage.

Later with King's son, Martin Luther King III, Obama visited the Sasha Bruce House, a homeless shelter for teens. While helping volunteers paint the walls of the center, Obama offered a word of advice to the young people there.

"Dr. King used to say if you sweep floors then make sure you're the best floor sweeper there has ever been," he began. "If everybody did their job...we'd be in pretty good shape. So doing your job well, finishing your job, cooperating as a team, all that stuff's important."

Record Volunteer Efforts

Obama's wife, Michelle, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's wife, Jill, also spent part of their day making care packages for troops stationed overseas.

The incoming administration urged Americans to spend MLK Day doing some type of volunteer work. As a result, a record 12,100 service projects around the U.S. were reported.

Obama credited the Internet for the increase, saying the Web can be used not only to build a campaign, but also to "rebuild a country."

In a statement commemorating King's birthday, Obama recognized the irony of his inauguration, Tuesday.

"Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King's dream echoes still," he said. "As we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson -- that our separate dreams are really one."

All Eyes on Washington

An estimated 500,000 people turned out, Sunday, for pre-inaugural ceremonies. Officials expect about 2 million people to be on the Mall to watch Obama be sworn in as the 44th President, Tuesday at noon.

At the star-studded Lincoln Memorial concert, Obama struck an optimistic yet guarded tone on the tough road ahead.

"Never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard," he said.

The numbers reflecting public expectations of Obama's presidency are high. His personal popularity is more than any president since Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals 70 percent of Americans feel Obama has a mandate for "major new social and economic programs."

The tough reality President-elect Obama faces after he takes office, Tuesday, is just how long that goodwill from his transition will carry over into his performance as executive in chief.

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