November 26, 2008 – 2:30pm
WASHINGTON (AP) – …
President-elect Barack Obama is staying in Chicago to “have a whole bunch of people over to the house” and squeeze in some Christmas shopping.
On a holiday designed for reflection, one man, historically unpopular, is heading to a remote mountaintop with his family. The other, promising change, is surrounding himself with dozens of people in a bustling city.
Dressed casually in a leather jacket and black scarf on Wednesday, Obama handed out food to the needy at a Chicago church with wife Michelle and their two daughters, shaking hands and jovially telling people “you can call me Barack.”
He followed that with a quick visit to a school next door, where he asked the excited kids, “Who’s going to have turkey?” “Who’s going to have green beans?” “Who’s going to have sweet potato pie?”
Obama has shown a knack for symbolism, in this case following the Thanksgiving tradition of helping the poor, said David Greenberg, a Rutgers University historian who is working on a history of political spin.
“Here he’s showing a different side of himself, the president as national conscience or moral authority. I think that’s probably a good note for him to introduce in a transition period that’s been so heavily focused on Wall Street and the financial system and these economic problems,” he said. “He’s not forgetting who these economic problems are hurting the most.”
This Thanksgiving, Obama used the opportunity for a relatively rare public event with his wife and children, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10 _ and a chance for a little lesson for the kids.
“I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they’re giving back,” he said of bringing the girls to the church.
And what’s he thankful for?
“I just want you to know what I’m thankful for is my family and my friends and my community,” he told the schoolchildren. “That’s the most important thing.”
This is the most excited I have ever been about a President. And for that I am extremely thankful.