- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

OBAMA LENDS A HAND

President-elect Barack Obama continued his visits to important D.C. institutions and landmarks on Monday when he met with wounded troops hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

He also honored Martin Luther King’s legacy of living “in service to others” by rolling up his sleeves and helping to paint the Sasha Bruce House, an shelter for homeless teenagers.

FLOATING ALONG

Midmorning motorists heading west into Washington on U.S. Highway 50 might have thought that a motorcade or accident was causing the commotion.

But they were wrong. It was something fun: inaugural parade floats, about 10 of them with a massive police escort, tied up intersections and blocked the right lane.

Not that usually hostile commuters seemed to mind. Some eastbound drivers pulled off the highway, got out of their vehicles and proceeded to do what any respectable logger of history would do - snap photos of the floats that other Americans won’t see until Tuesday’s parade.

C’EST LA VIE

The good times were rolling Sunday at the French Embassy, where C. Ray Nagin, the Democratic mayor of New Orleans and an honorary Frenchman, appeared at an event also attended by French Ambassador Pierre Vimont; Yelberton Watkins, chief of staff to House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn; and lobbyists Lyndon Boozer and Gerry Harrington.

The mayor said he sees parallels between Mardi Gras and inaugural madness and that transportation and security concerns are being handled properly.

He told The Washington Times: “Y’all are going to do fine.”

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

The spirit inside a large tent on the field of RFK Stadium in Northeast, where volunteers filled care packages for American troops overseas, was pretty amazing.

A group called Operation Gratitude, based out of Encino, Calif., set up an assembly line where “super-volunteers” handed supplies to people who walked along a number of stations and got plastic bags filled up.

When the first wave of bag-filler volunteers came through the doors into the tent, the “super volunteers” cheered as if it were President-elect Barack Obama himself, chanting “Obama” to boost each other’s spirits.

And in keeping with Mr. Obama’s call to service, Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president-elect, popped in to RFK to help assemble the care packages.

The goal of the 15,000 volunteers is to send at least 70,000 care packages.

PROMISES, PROMISES

Those of you who weren’t lucky enough to score tickets to one of Tuesday’s A-list inaugural balls but are still craving that celebrity fix, you’re in luck. Well, sort of.

MySpace Celebrity on Monday morning released the Presidential Pledge, a series of videos featuring dozens of stars pledging their service to President-elect Barack Obama ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Produced by Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Media and directed by Demi Moore, the project includes pledges from more than 50 famous personalities, including Eva Longoria, Michael Strahan, Eva Mendes, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Nicole Richie, to name a few.

“They say that the job of the president is the loneliest job in the world,” begins the four-minute introductory video at www.myspace.com/presidentialpledge, quoting former President Harry S. Truman. “We’d like you to know you’re not alone.”

The montage showcases promises from dozens of celebrity participants, ranging from “to be a great mother” or “to plant 500 trees” to more humorous pledges, such as “to never give anyone the finger when I’m driving again” (director Joel Schumacher) and “to meet my neighbors” (actor Ioan Gruffudd).

• Andrea Billups, Stephanie Green, Jon Ward, Stephen Dinan and Kara Rowland contributed to this report.

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