Obama Speech Calls for 'Era of Responsibility'

Obama spends MLK Day volunteering, visiting wounded soldiers.

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 19, 2009, 8:12 AM

Jan. 19, 2009— -- After a weekend of gala events with casts of thousands, President-elect Barack Obama spent the day before his inauguration applying a more personal touch, as he helped paint a shelter for homeless teens and visited with wounded soldiers.

"I think I've got this wall covered," Obama said after rolling light blue paint on the wall of a boys' dorm at the Sasha Bruce Youthwork shelter. "What else you got for me?"

Obama's stint as a painter was part of his way of honoring Martin Luther King Day and encouraging volunteerism.

"Don't underestimate the power of people who join together… they can accomplish amazing things," Obama said during a break in painting.

When asked if he was experienced at painting walls, Obama replied, "It's not rocket science. You take the roller, put some paint on it and then you roll .... You do have to apply a little elbow grease like in anything you do."

Michelle Obama along with daughters Malia and Sasha were elsewhere in Washington helping to assemble care packages for U.S. troops overseas.

The president-elect later joined his wife Michelle at a lunch honoring other volunteers, including a squad of cheerleaders who gave him an impromptu cheer.

Obama started the day at Walter Reed Hospital where he visited with 14 soldiers who had been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. That visit was private and no press was allowed to accompany him.

To mark Martin Luther King Day, Obama released a statement linking King's "I Have a Dream" speech on the Washington Mall 45 years ago and his own ascension to the nation's top job, saying, "Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King's dream echoes still."

Today's events, however, were little more than a countdown to Tuesday's history making swearing-in and the anticipation of Obama's inauguration speech.

The speech has been written and rehearsed, but Obama is still tinkering with the words that he hopes will mark a moment in history and galvanize the nation for a new "era of responsibility."

That speech will begin shortly after his swearing-in with Michelle Obama holding President Lincoln's Bible.

Sources tell ABC News that the remarks delivered to a hushed nation tomorrow will last about 15 to 20 minutes, and the theme is an era of responsibility.

That theme comes after months of headlines about the country's economic meltdown and general outrage over corporate greed and executive bonuses.

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.