Celebrities Take Part in Obama’s Day of Service

Posted January 19, 2009 at 1:39pm

As President-elect Barack Obama spent his last day before taking office visiting wounded soldiers, homeless youth and local school children, some of the celebrities in town for Tuesday’s inauguration answered his call to make the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a “day of service.” At a rally held at the downtown Martin Luther King Library, actors Ben Affleck and David Arquette asked Americans to skip lunch for the day and donate the food they would have eaten — or the money they would have spent to buy a meal — to their local food bank. “When this country celebrates with tremendous hope the inauguration of Barack Obama, on that very day, millions of people will go the entire day without eating, as they will in our nation’s capital,” Affleck told the more than 200 people on hand. “That is an offense.” Feeding America, the country’s largest food-distribution network, sponsored the hourlong rally. Musicians Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock also performed a rendition of “Imagine,” while volunteers from the Capital Area Food Bank accepted donations. Martin Luther King III, who toured Walter Reed Army Medical Center with Obama just hours earlier, told the crowd he believes “we can eradicate the hunger issue.” “I know we can feed our nation,” he said. “And guess what? We can feed the world.” Arquette, who chairs Feeding America’s Entertainment Council, said in an interview that holding the hunger rally in Washington, D.C., during the inaugural events was especially important because the charity has its roots in Obama’s hometown of Chicago. The Obamas were big supporters of Feeding America, previously called America’s Second Harvest, during their time in the Windy City, Arquette said. Since that time, Obama has said eliminating hunger must be a priority, Arquette noted. “This is an amazing time in history,” Arquette said. “I’m honored to be a part of it.” Feeding America’s next big goal is to make September “Hunger Action Awareness Month,” with Americans focusing on the issue during the month the same way they focus on breast cancer in October, Arquette said. The actor promised to return to Washington to lobby political leaders on hunger issues. “I hope to be back,” Arquette said. “I do what I can.”