EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Inauguration

January 19, 2009

Obama visits with troops, honors King on holiday

WASHINGTON (AP) — With history intersecting the transfer of power, large crowds thronged to the capital Monday, on the eve of Barack Obama's elevation to the presidency as America honored slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

A day away from becoming the nation's 44th president, Obama made an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit with troops injured in battle. And President George W. Bush made calls from the White House to thank several world leaders for their work with him over the last eight years.

On the streets, live broadcasts by the television networks attracted swarms of onlookers, and behind the scenes people made final preparations for a slew of parties, balls and other celebrations that will follow Obama's oath-taking and the inaugural parade.

Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, fresh off a rollicking concert at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, planned to spend their final day before the inauguration with activities keyed to the celebration of King's life, cut short by an assassin's bullet in 1968.

The Obama and Biden families were part of a community renovation project in honor of King on the federal holiday established in his memory. Transition aides declined to name the locations or details of the projects.

The run-up to Obama's inauguration, like his election itself, has been defined by enormous public enthusiasm, carefully choreographed events and a lofty spirit of unity. What awaits, as Obama often reminds the nation, is many months, if not years, of tough work.

The weekend celebrations began Saturday with Obama's whistle-stop tour, from Philadelphia to Washington, along the path Abraham Lincoln took in 1861. Then came that roaring celebrity-filled concert where several hundred thousand people flanked the reflecting pool, hearing actors, singers and then Obama himself rally for national renewal.

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