President Bush convened much of his administrative staff, including his entire Cabinet, and vowed today that they would all work to ensure a smooth transition to a Barack Obama presidency.
It will be the first wartime presidential transition in four decades.
"For the next 75 days, all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running," an emotional Bush told the 1,000 staff assembled on the White House lawn.
"This peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy. And ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency," Bush said.
The president also had advice for staffers who will be leaving on Jan. 20, when Obama assumes office.
"Between now and then, we must keep our attention on the task at hand, because the American people expect no less," he said.
The president and first lady Laura Bush will also meet with Barack and Michelle Obama on Monday, when the Obamas will get their first look at their future digs.
Bush can use that time with Obama to warn him about the rigors of the office. The president joked with his staff about the gray hairs that he -- and they -- have accumulated over the last eight years.
A presidential transition is worth a couple of hairs on its own. It is a bit more complicated than leaving the keys under the welcome mat.
The Work to Be Done
Obama's entrance into the White House triggers change within all branches of the government and throughout all corners of Washington, D.C. By the time the 44th president moves into Pennsylvania Avenue, he'll have handpicked people he believes will be the best and brightest advisers to guide him in governing the country.
Already, President-elect Obama has made some key choices during his transition. He will be briefed by the Director of Intelligence and CIA officals today, and it's possible he'll announce high-level Cabinet picks by week's end.
But those top-tier appointments will trickle down through their respective departments and extend far beyond the White House. At the other end of the Mall, there will be new faces at the FAA. Across the Potomac River, new jobs will open up at the Pentagon.
"There's a potential breakdown coming in Xerox capacity," Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University, told ABCNews.com. "Anybody who wants to be in the administration is Xeroxing their resume and desperately seeking someone to carry it into the White House."
Light estimated that there will be more than 2,000 people who will be political appointees not requiring Senate confirmation, adding, "Frankly, all of those appointments are vetted by the White House."
A Transition Throughout Washington
"The White House wants to make sure they're loyal soldiers," he said.
It all needs to happen quickly. Cabinet members face Senate confirmation hearings in January. By early February a hefty budget request document from the president lands on desks throughout the Capitol, reflecting priorities and needs for each department of the government.
With so much to be done, transitions aren't always pretty.
"The Clinton transition was a mess," Light said. "Probably the worst in modern history, very confused."
The country's transition means that in the next few weeks, the nation's capital becomes the most transient of cities. Those moving in will look for new apartments, new schools, new doctors and new local take-out. Those moving out will look for new jobs.
That's something the current president said he can relate to.
"As Jan. 20 draws near, some of you may be anxious about finding a new job or a new place to live," Bush said. "I know how you feel."
A cultural shift could be in store for Washington as well.
"When Carter came in, it became BBQ town," Light said. "He had BBQs on the White House lawn. He actually started a fire once with the BBQ."