Obama Says Inauguration Is a Symbol of How Democracy Works

President Barack Obama said his inauguration is a symbol of democracy and a reminder that “we’re all in this together,” as he began a weekend of festivities by helping renovate a Washington elementary school.

“This is really what America’s about, this is what we celebrate,” Obama said to other volunteers, after helping paint a bookshelf at the school today in Northeast Washington.

The inauguration is “a symbol of how our democracy works and how we peacefully transfer power,” he said. “But it should also be an affirmation that we’re all in this together.”

Obama’s volunteer work was a repeat of his activity four years ago, when he made a “call to service” one of his inauguration themes. On Jan. 19, 2009, the day before he took the oath of office for the first time, Obama visited wounded troops and helped paint the walls of a shelter for teenagers.

Today, Obama, 51, and his wife and daughters, marked what the White House has called a National Day of Service by joining about 500 volunteers to work on a makeover of the Burrville Elementary School, on the edge of the city, across the Anacostia River and blocks away from the Maryland border.

For Obama’s second inauguration, the country’s 57th, organizers planned to raise $50 million from individuals and corporations to cover the cost of inaugural activities. A list of donors posted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee includes AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Southern Co.

Ti Leljedal, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Southern Co., said it gave $100,000 for inauguration activities. “This is always a very special time for our country and we are pleased to participate,” he said in an e-mail.

Obama’s supporters are arriving for festivities, which will culminate with the president giving his inaugural address on the national holiday commemorating civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. from the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

Chief Justice John Roberts will deliver the oath of office twice, first tomorrow, as mandated by the Constitution, and then again on Monday before thousands of onlookers at the National Mall.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has named former first daughter Chelsea Clinton as the honorary chairwoman of the volunteer efforts. Vice President Joe Biden, along with his wife and other family members, helped packed “care kits” for deployed U.S. service members, wounded warriors and veterans.

“With this inauguration, we think about Dr. King’s birthday we’re going to be celebrating this weekend,” Obama said in the school’s gymnasium.

“Everybody wants to be the drum major,” Obama said, paraphrasing King. “But if you’re going to be a drum major, be one that serves.”

“Be a drum major for justice,” he said. “Be a drum major for looking out for other people.”

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