CUA student Julianne Keller was quoted in a Jan. 19 Washington Post article about the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday. More than 100 members of the CUA community spent the holiday painting classrooms at a high school in Washington, D.C. See Keller's comments in the article below.
From: The Washington Post Date: Jan. 19, 2009 Authors: William Branigin and Philip RuckerMarking Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama today urged Americans to act on the slain civil rights leader's vision as he led the nation in a "call to service" aimed at helping people in need.
Obama, who takes the oath of office at noon tomorrow as the nation's 44th president, began his day with a previously unannounced visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to meet with wounded troops. During the visit, which lasted a little more than an hour, Obama met with 14 service members recovering from wounds they sustained in Iraq or Afghanistan, aides said.
Accompanied by Martin Luther King III, he then headed to a District shelter for homeless teenagers to lend a hand in a project to renovate the facility's rooms.
In a statement marking the national holiday that commemorates King's birthday, Obama said the civil rights leader lived life "in loving service to others."
"As we honor that legacy, it's not a day just to pause and reflect -- it's a day to act," the president-elect said. Noting that Americans are participating in more than 11,000 service projects across the nation, he appealed to people "to turn today's efforts into an ongoing commitment to enriching the lives of others in their communities, their cities and their country."
Obama said: "Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King's dream echoes still. As we do, we recognize that here in America, our destinies are inextricably linked. We resolve that as we walk, we must walk together. And as we go forward in the work of renewing the promise of this nation, let's remember King's lesson -- that our separate dreams are really one."
At the Sasha Bruce Youthwork shelter for homeless teens in Northeast Washington, Obama, wearing a white open-necked shirt, rolled up his sleeves to help paint one of the boys' dormitory rooms under renovation.
"I think this facility here is an example," he said as he used a long-handled roller to apply blue paint to a wall. "These young people have a huge potential that right now is not being tapped. Given the crisis we're in and the hardships so many people are going through, we can't allow any idle hands. Everybody's going to have to be involved. Everybody's going to have to pitch in."
Obama told reporters that the Internet was "an amazing tool" in helping to organize the thousands of service projects underway across the nation today.
"We don't want to just use it to win elections," he said. "We want to use it to rebuild America."
As he worked, Obama remarked to other volunteers and reporters that he once held a summer job as a painter when he was a teenager, making $4 an hour. "This is good practice, because I'm moving into a new house, and I may have to do a few touchups here and there," he joked.
Outside the shelter, more than 300 residents of the neighborhood gathered on a street corner and chanted Obama's campaign slogan, "Yes, we can!"
Later, at Coolidge Senior High School in Northwest, Obama told volunteers as his wife, Michelle, looked on, "I am making a commitment to you as your next president that we are going to make government work."
He went on, "But I can't do it by myself. Michelle can't do it by herself. Government can only do so much. And if we're just waiting around for somebody else to do it for us . . . it never gets done." Saying that "this is not just a one-day affair," he urged everyone to take advantage of service opportunities that would be offered throughout the year and in years to come.
He made the remarks to about 300 people gathered in the school's gymnasium for a lunch, including members of military families, high school students and volunteers from three local service organizations. They came together for a project that involved sending letters and video messages to troops overseas and decorating blankets for wounded service members at Walter Reed. The visit by the Obamas for lunch with them came as a surprise, they said.
Tonight, Obama was scheduled to deliver remarks at three bipartisan dinners in downtown Washington. The events honor his election campaign opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.; and retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, who served as secretary of state during Bush's first term but who endorsed Obama days before the Nov. 4 presidential election.
At the black-tie dinner for McCain, Obama hailed his former rival as "an American hero" who had endured prolonged suffering in the service of his country during the Vietnam War, when he was held prisoner in North Vietnam for more than five years. After praising McCain's legislative efforts on campaign finance reform, immigration and the Patients' Bill of Rights, Obama said the Arizona senator's career has been shaped by "a pure and deeply felt love of his country that comes from the painful knowledge of what life is like without it."
Wearing a black tuxedo, Obama told the audience, "John is not known to bite his tongue, and If I'm screwing up, he's going to let me know. And that's how it should be because a presidency is just one branch of a broader government by and for the people."
Obama appealed to the diners to "join us in making this bipartisan dinner not just an inaugural tradition, but a new way of doing the people's business in this city."
Earlier, at RFK Stadium, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president-elect, joined thousands of volunteers in assembling care packages for U.S. troops posted in Iraq and Afghanistan. They helped put together the packages containing sunscreen, toothpaste, energy drinks and other items in a project organized by Serve D.C., Operation Gratitude and the Target store chain. Also participating were the Obamas' daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
The volunteers included Shannon Henderson of Houston and her 5-year-old son, Maxx. Henderson said she came for the inauguration and decided to participate in the day of service without knowing that the VIPs would be there. She was thrilled when Michelle Obama responded to her son's greetings of "Miss Michelle," turned toward them and waved.
"She looked right at Maxx," Henderson said. "It means the world to him. We spent every dime we had to get here."
By mid-afternoon, the volunteers had assembled 60,000 packages, organizers announced.
Elsewhere across the region, service projects were going ahead without high-level participation.
For more than 100 Catholic University students who flooded the halls of Anacostia Senior High School, this was neither the first nor the last time they would be doing projects.
"Every year they have a service program," said CU student Julianne Keller, 21, of Bethesda, as she sanded classroom walls to ready them for a fresh layer of paint. Other CU students and visitors from as far away as Illinois and South Carolina stenciled murals on walls, rolled bright orange paint over beige walls and rubbed graffiti off lockers.
In a suburban Maryland school silenced by today's holiday, Carol Herring-Reid organized a stack of books and pondered this moment in history.
"We had two generations -- my great-grandmother and my grandmother -- who didn't get to vote," she said. "So now the whole family volunteers on Election Day. And this day is an important day for service, too."
One of a dozen early-shift volunteers at Morningside Elementary School in Suitland, Herring-Reid, 59, was joined by several fellow members of Alpha Kappa Alpha who painted walls and helped transform a storeroom into a resource center. Just outside the office of Principal Ezekiel Bloyce stood a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama beside a bulletin board with a sign saying, "Hats Off to Change!"
At a dental clinic in Northern Virginia, Maqsood Chaudhry, a native of Pakistan who has lived in the United States for 21 years, toiled all day with four other dentists to provide free cleanings to children and cancer screenings to adults as part of Obama's call to service. The Grove Dental Clinic in the Bailey's Crossroads area of Fairfax County was an international beehive of activity, with an Afghan family in for routine cleanings and dental assistants from Russia, Somalia and Pakistan scurrying from one partitioned patient to the next.
Chaudhry, who lives in McLean with his wife and five children, said he typically votes Republican but that he supported Obama this time because it was time for a change. He said he was celebrating the inauguration in part because he hopes Obama will usher in more tolerance for the diversity that has helped this corner of the Washington region thrive.
Staff writers DeNeen L. Brown, Amy Gardner and Ashley Halsey III contributed to this report.