- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama asked the nation Wednesday to make a “renewed commitment” to serving their communities, saying his presidency allows a possibility for national unity through active participation, and warning of big crowds and lots of walking on his Inauguration Day.

Mr. Obama, who takes the oath of office Tuesday at noon, said Americans can visit the inaugural committee’s new online service tool at USAService.org to host events in their neighborhoods.

He detailed his plans to join his wife, Michelle Obama, and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill Biden, on Martin Luther King Day Monday to volunteer around Washington.

“I am asking you to join us in that same spirit of service to others — no matter where you live,” he said in a four-minute video address released Wednesday on YouTube.

“To honor the legacy of a man who lived his life as a servant to others, I will ask all Americans to make a renewed commitment to serving their communities and their country,” he said. “You don’t have to wear a uniform. You don’t have to be a community organizer. You don’t even have to run for president. At a time when there is so much need, we are blessed with endless ways to contribute something to the life of this nation.”

Mr. Obama asked that people view it as more than one day of service, and instead as a “lasting commitment to make better the lives of your fellow Americans — a commitment that must endure beyond one day, or even one presidency.”

“At this moment of great challenge and great change, I am asking you to play your part; to roll up your sleeves and join in the work of remaking this nation,” he said. “And if you do, then I truly believe a new and better day is within our reach.”

He also made a pitch for the inauguration’s new text messaging service, urging people to text the word “open” to 56333 to get updates on organizational details for Washington festivities that begin Sunday.

“You’ve probably heard the reports that unprecedented numbers of Americans are planning to join us in Washington,” he said. “That will mean long lines, a tough time getting around, and most of all, a lot of walking on what could be a very cold winter day. Fortunately, you don’t have to brave the crowds and commotion in order to participate in this celebration — because we’ve made this Inauguration open and accessible to communities across our nation.”

Mr. Obama detailed a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial that will be broadcast for free on television by HBO, along with a Kids’ inaugural concert for military families Monday that will air on the Disney Channel.

He noted the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball will be on television, Web cast and partnered with “neighborhood balls” across the nation.

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