Obamas mark MLK Day by volunteering

President Obama marked the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by volunteering at a Washington-area Boys and Girls Club, working with children on art and education projects.

Obama, joined by the first lady and his oldest daughter, Malia, helped children assemble literacy kits containing flashcards and books intended to help promote reading and writing skills. They also helped paint murals with some of the at-risk youth at the center.


Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, who runs the president's "My Brother's Keeper" program, also participated in the service project.

So did members of the Metropolitan Police Department, who regularly volunteer at the center.

Federal legislation signed by President Clinton in 1994 encourages Americans to use the annual King holiday to volunteer. The bill was co-authored by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who worked alongside King as a major organizer of the civil rights movement.

The vice president and other senior administration officials attended other projects across the country.

The press was only briefly allowed to observe Obama, and the president did not make any public remarks. But he and the first lady were spotted helping children with drawing projects, and Jarrett tweeted a picture of the president meeting with the police officers.

Earlier in the day, both Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson publicly addressed racial unrest in the wake of recent police killings in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island. A Gallup poll released earlier this month showed just three in 10 Americans were satisfied with the state of race relations.

Biden said both police and minority communities had "got to start seeing one another" at a speech Monday morning in Delaware.

"We need to agree in this nation on two basic statements of truth," Biden said. "Cops have a right to go home at night to see their families. And two, all minorities, no matter what their neighborhood, have a right to be treated with respect and with dignity. All life matters."


— This post was updated at 4:38 p.m.