WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden participated in a National Day of Service on Saturday, joining what event organizers say are volunteers around the country in local service projects. First lady Michelle Obama and the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, also took part.
Obama joined in a project at Burrville Elementary School in Washington, picking up a paintbrush and aiding volunteers who were staining a bookcase.
“Every holiday, we would always do service” as a family, the president told volunteers afterward. “So I was taught from a young age.”
Volunteering “is really what America is all about,” he said.
“I hear reports that the very young people did some really good work, and some of the older folks like me who it hurt getting (on) our knees, bending down a little bit – we were able to manage also,” he said. “And somehow, Michelle looked stylish the whole time she was doing it.”
Earlier, Biden and members of his family helped to put together care packages for deployed troops at the National Guard Armory in Washington. Biden’s office said volunteers there would produce 100,000 care kits that included toiletries.
The vice president filled care packages with cotton swabs, while his wife handled toothbrushes and toothpaste. They worked for about 25 minutes, pausing to shake hands and take photos with other volunteers.
“We still have 68,000 troops in harm’s way in some of the most godforsaken territory in the world,” Biden said, adding that these forces can find comfort “knowing that we back home just remember, we know what’s going on.”
Beau Biden, the vice president’s son and Delaware attorney general, said he sees the Day of Service as “consistent with President Obama, his life, this administration.”
Chelsea Clinton, honorary chairwoman of the Day of Service, spoke at a kickoff event on the National Mall. As president, her father had signed a bill designating a National Day of Service to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leader.
“When he signed the bill, he reminded us of what Dr. King called life’s most persistent and urgent question: What are you doing for others?” she said. “And in my family, the only wrong answer to that question is ‘nothing.’ But there are as many right answers as there are people in this tent today and people in our country.”
Actress Eva Longoria, who was a national co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign and is honorary co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said she was inspired by her parents “who dedicated their lives to serving others. My mother was a special education teacher. … My dad worked on the Army base.”
Gospel singer Yolanda Adams said every day should be a day for service.
“We must be reminded that someone somewhere needs us. And even if you can just give a hand or listen to someone’s problems, that’s better than not doing anything at all,” she said.