- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

Barack Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama” >President-elect Barack Obama continued to explore his new home city Sunday, pausing amid the inaugural bustle to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and to attend religious services at the city’s oldest black church as he searches for a spiritual home in town.

Joined by Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama laid the wreath before the tomb, in Arlington National Cemetery, then stood holding hands over their hearts as taps was played.

Mr. Obama and his family then attended Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, where the Rev. Derrick Harkins, pastor of the church, 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 braved persecution to speak up and defend Persian Jews 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.

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 M. Fenty.

In church Sunday, the congregation stood and applauded as Mr. Obama and his family proceeded down the aisle to a second-row pew that had been reserved for them.

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 yet settled on a permanent church in which to worship.

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 black church in the District, was organized in 1839 and in 1975 moved to its current location on 16th Street.

Meanwhile, taking to the airwaves, Mr. Obama’s advisers said that on Wednesday, his first full day as president, he will meet with top military officers and issue the order to begin a long orderly withdrawal from Iraq.

“The goal of the meeting, certainly as it relates to Iraq, is to keep our commitment to remove responsibly and safely our troops, our combat brigades, over the course of the next 16 months,” incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told “Fox News Sunday.”

Senior adviser David Axelrod said Mr. Obama’s inaugural speech will be familiar to those who have followed the president-elect’s call for change and responsibility.

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