* Obama dons work gloves for day of service projects
* Muted inauguration compared with 2009
* Obama to be sworn in Sunday, then again Monday
* Deficit, gun control, immigration are main challenges
By Mark Felsenthal and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 President Barack Obama kicked
off inauguration events for his second term on Saturday, rolling
up his sleeves and joining in a nationwide day of community
service projects honoring slain civil rights leader Martin
Luther King Jr.
Obama will take the official oath of office in a private
White House ceremony on Sunday, then have the pomp of a public
swearing-in outside the U.S. Capitol Building on Monday - which
falls on the national holiday marking King's birthday.
Launching the weekend's festivities, the president and first
lady Michelle Obama took part in a National Day of Service, a
volunteer program started when he took office four years ago as
a way to pay tribute to King's legacy. They pitched in at the
renovation of a local school.
Obama's second inauguration celebration will be a more muted
affair than his historic swearing-in for his first term.
High unemployment and partisan fights over fiscal policies
have drained some of the hope that marked Obama's first
swearing-in after he swept to victory on a mantle of change in
2008 as America's first black president.
On Sunday, following a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington
National Cemetery, Obama will be sworn in officially at the
White House at 11:55 a.m. EST (1655 GMT), meeting the
constitutional requirement that he do so on Jan. 20. That
portion will be private - except for a media presence - with a
small audience of mostly family members.
Obama repeats the procedure the next day in the traditional
open-air ceremony on a giant platform overlooking the National
Both times he will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice John
Roberts who, in 2009 after flubbing the oath the first time,
administered it to Obama again in the White House the day after
It will be only the second time he has made an inaugural
address, however, and millions worldwide will be watching. Some
800,000 people are expected to flock to Washington for the
event, down from a record 1.8 million in 2009.
With workers rushing to complete preparations for Monday,
the president and first lady Michelle Obama donned work gloves
and helped varnish bookshelves at a local elementary school
"This is what America is about. This is what we celebrate,"
Obama told a crowd of about 300 workers in the school gymnasium.
He said the inauguration will be "a symbol of how our democracy
works ... but it should also be an affirmation that we're all in
Vice President Joe Biden, at the D.C. Armory helping to fill
personal-care kits destined for overseas military service
members, said of the administration's second-term agenda: "I
think we're on the cusp of doing some really great things."
In his inaugural speech, Obama is expected to talk about the
need for political compromise where possible - a nod to the
divisive fights with the Republican-led House of Representatives
over the "fiscal cliff" and raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
He will emphasize that the values on which the United States
was founded should still guide the country in the 21st century
and encourage Americans to make their voices heard to influence
lawmakers' actions, according to an administration official.
He will also touch on the goals he hopes to address in his
second term, while leaving detailed policy blueprints for his
State of the Union address next month, the official said.
Deficit reduction, gun control, immigration reform, and energy
policy are likely to be top priorities in his second term.
SPEECHES, PARADES, BALLS
Obama has been crafting his inaugural address for weeks,
scrawling out drafts on yellow legal pads. This weekend, he
faces the task of juggling speech preparations and his
presidential duties, including briefings on the fate of
Americans and others caught up in a still-unfolding hostage
crisis at a desert gas plant in Algeria.
While second inauguration speeches rarely go down in
history, Monday's address is a rare opportunity to face millions
of television viewers and seek support for upcoming fights with
the men and women who work in the Capitol building behind the
podium where he will speak.
"This time it's scaled down, but it's still historic for
all of America," said Courtney Prater, a construction worker
visiting from Detroit, after a tour of the White House.
The White House views the two speeches - he delivers his
State of the Union address before Congress on Feb. 12 - as two
parts of a package, with the first one spelling out a vision and
the second one specific policy proposals.
"The president, I think, is very appreciative of the fact
that the American people have given him this opportunity to
deliver a second inaugural address," White House spokesman Jay
Carney told reporters this week.
"He believes that we have work to do, and he believes that
both the agenda he has put forward so far and the agenda he will
put forward in the future will help this country move forward in
a variety of ways," Carney said.
After lambasting Republican opponent Mitt Romney during the
presidential campaign for remarks that dismissed nearly half of
the U.S. electorate, Obama is likely to offer some words of
humility and resolve to represent even those who did not vote
for him last year.
After the speech, Obama and the first lady will join Biden
and his wife, Jill, at a luncheon at the capitol. Later the two
couples will take part in the inaugural parade, returning to the
White House in a motorcade and likely getting out to walk part
of the way, waving at the crowd and surrounded by Secret Service
For weeks, workers have been building viewing stands along
the parade route for visitors.
After seeing the rest of the parade from a spot in front of
the White House, the Obamas will attend two official inaugural
balls, dancing for the cameras and, in the first lady's case,
donning a gown that will be scrutinized closely for its style
and fashion sense.