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The president-elect’s motorcade threaded its way from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the Sasha Bruce House through neighborhoods that contain a mix of crime and gentrification. He skirted the edges of Trinidad, which last summer experienced a spike in violence so sharp that police set up checkpoints and demanded identification from anyone trying to enter.

Earlier in the morning, Mr. Obama spent about an hour talking with troops who are recuperating at Walter Reed, a regular practice of President Bush. As was Mr. Bush’s habit, Mr. Obama did not bring reporters with him.

Mr. Obama, in his inaugural address Tuesday, is expected to call on all Americans to do more for their country, in a spirit similar to the one evoked by President Kennedy. Incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in a TV appearance Sunday that “to regain America’s greatness and continue to move forward and be an example around the world … we need that culture of responsibility, not just to be asked of the American people, but that its leaders must also lead by example.”

The inaugural committee did not release the location of Mr. Obama’s service event until he arrived, because of security concerns.

In the evening, Mr. Obama attended three bipartisan dinners in honor of Mr. Biden, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden hosted a children’s concert at the Verizon Center.

At the McCain dinner, Mr. Obama said he would make bipartisanship “a new way of doing business in this city” and that he expected his former presidential opponent to keep a close watch over him, as per the Constitution’s system of checks and balances.

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, spent the morning of his last full day as commander in chief calling other world leaders.

Mr. Bush called the presidents or prime ministers of Georgia, Russia, South Korea, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Britain, Israel, Brazil, France and Germany. He also called two former world leaders - Mexico’s Vicente Fox, with whom Mr. Bush had a working relationship dating back to his days as Texas governor, and Britain’s Tony Blair, who took political risks in leading a left-wing government into the Iraq war alongside the U.S.

“The leaders thanked President Bush for his work and for the spirit of cooperation and friendship developed in the last eight years,” said Bush spokesman Gordon Johndroe. “President Bush expressed his gratitude for the kind hospitality all these leaders showed him and Mrs. Bush over the years and told them how much he enjoyed working with them during his two terms.”

Mrs. Perino also said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been designated successor to the president-elect if anything happens to Mr. Obama on Inauguration Day “in order to ensure continuity of government.”

Anne-Laure Buffard contributed to this report.