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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The president and first lady Michelle Obama help volunteers repair an old school
  • The event was part of the National Service Day declared by President Obama
  • Service day also honors Martin Luther King, Jr.

(USA Today) -- President Obama prepared for a new term Saturday by helping fix up an old school.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama helped re-touch furniture at an elementary school in northeast Washington, D.C., publicizing the National Day of Service that Obama declared in connection with the weekend of his second inaugural.

The inaugural "is a symbol of how our democracy works," Obama told some 300 other volunteers gathered in the school gym, "but it should also be an affirmation that we're all in this together."

Obama also said that the National Day of Service is in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday on Monday.

The president and first lady applied stain to a five-tier wooden bookshelf on the first floor of the school. "How'd you guys get power tools?" Obama said as machinery was intermittently heard in the background; the president joked that the Secret Service doesn't let him handle power tools.

Speaking to the volunteers later, Obama declared, "Michelle says I did a fine job."

The president praised young people for their good work on the school, while "some of the older folks like me" risked injured knees. Obama also worked in praise of his wife, saying, "we were able to manage, and somehow Michelle looks fabulous the whole time we were doing it."

In her remarks, Mrs. Obama also encouraged volunteer service by young people: "We're passing the baton to you all."

She added: "The goal is -- as you make your way through life -- who are you pulling up with you? And as long as you're pulling somebody up with you, you're doing the right thing."

Vice President Biden, wife Jill, and members of their family also participated in a volunteer event, helping pack toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, lint rollers, band aids, and other items into 100,000 "care kits" for members of the military. The event took place at the DC Armory in the eastern part of the city, near the Anacostia River.

"Hey man, how's it going?" Biden told one volunteer as he placed cotton swabs in a box. The vice president then posed for a picture taken with the volunteer's iPhone.

In brief remarks, Biden began by saying, "I'm Joe Biden, I'm Jill Biden's husband." He also said military men and women are "not looking for anything, but knowing that we remember is an important piece of the equation."

Biden, who will also be sworn in for a second term on Sunday, also told the volunteers: "I think we're on the cusp of doing some really great things."

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