President-elect Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns Sunday morning then headed with his family for church services as he began his search for a spiritual home in Washington.
Just before 10 a.m. Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. laid the wreath before the tomb, in Arlington National Cemetery, and stood holding their hands over their hearts as Taps was played.
Mr. Obama then attended Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, where Senior Pastor Derrick Harkins, in his sermon, placed Mr. Obama in a line of champions of racial equality who gave up a comfortable life to pursue justice.
The pastor also compared Mr. Obama to Esther from the Bible, who was prodded to brave persecution to speak up and defend Jews in Persia from a plan to kill them.
“Perhaps, just perhaps, you are where you are for just such a time,” Mr. Harkins said to Mr. Obama.
Meanwhile Mr. Obama’s advisers took to the airwaves to preview his inaugural address, which he will deliver Tuesday after he is sworn in as the 44th president.
Senior adviser David Axelrod said Mr. Obama will sound the same themes he’s talked about throughout his time in office.
“I don’t think you’re going to be surprised by what you hear. I think he’s going to talk about where we are as a country but also who we are as a people and what responsibilities accrue to us as a result of that, and what we have to do to move forward,” Mr. Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
With the visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns and attendance at church Mr. Obama continued to explore his new home city, as he has done since officially moving to town earlier this month.
Last weekend he made stops at two different D.C. landmarks: the Lincoln Memorial, which he visited briefly with his family, and Ben’s Chili Bowl, the venerable restaurant that has survived and thrived for 50 years on U Street, which he visited with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.
The congregation church stood and applauded as Mr. Obama and his family processed down the aisle to a second-row pew that had been reserved for him.
It’s the first service Mr. Obama has attended since his grandmother’s memorial service in Hawaii on Dec. 23.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee was quick to make it clear Mr. Obama has not decided on church to attend regularly.
The committee issued a statement saying the president-elect is “learning more about many churches in the District.” The statement said Mr. Obama and his family will choose a church “at a time that is best for their family.”
Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, which the inaugural committee said is the oldest African American church in the District, was organized in 1839. In 1975 it moved to its current location on 16th Street.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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