That theme comes after months of headlines about the country's economic meltdown and general outrage over corporate greed and executive bonuses. Obama has said that the best inaugural addresses crystallized the moment the nation was in and where it needed to go.
Obama rehearsed the speech Saturday, but he is still going through it, trying to make sure the language is as fresh and unique as possible.
Not that there's any pressure. Obama said that when he visited the Lincoln Memorial with his family this past weekend, daughter Sasha saw Lincoln's inaugural speech on the walls of the memorial and remarked that it looked like a long speech.
Obama countered that his own would probably be longer.
"At which point Malia turns to me and says, 'First African American president, better be good,'" Obama told CNN.
One curveball was thrown at the president-elect today by vice presidential-elect spouse Jill Biden, who, during a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, said that her husband was given a choice of being either vice president or secretary of state.
The comment contradicts claims by Obama officials that Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton was Obama's first and only choice for the job.
While Mrs. Biden may have revealed something confidential to the transition process, the blunder did not take away from the significance of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the eve of the inauguration of the first black president.
The inauguration will mark the climax of a weekend-long celebration -- and for African Americans, a 200-year wait for the country to live up to its promise of equality for everyone, regardless of skin color.
Gov. Deval Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts, said his friend and president-elect has a tall order in his speech because the "excitement is absolutely palpable." Obama must also address the problems the nation faces, including a financial crisis, two wars and the looming threats from around the world.
"It will be very candid and very appropriate in the sense that he will strike a balance between the momentous nature of the occasion, but also the huge challenges in front of us," Patrick said.
"I think he will strike tomorrow the perfect tone, because he will call upon the American people to answer the call of service, to answer the call to help reform government and to be accountable to the American people."
Obama will also be subject to high expectations. The politician known for wowing tens of thousands on the campaign trail will have his biggest audience ever Tuesday. And an ABC News/Washington Post poll put his favorability rating at 79 percent, the highest for an incoming president since Ronald Reagan.