Image: War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore
Rob Carr  /  AP
Workers set up the stage at the War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore on Friday. President-elect Barack Obama will speak at the site Saturday as part of his tour from Philadelphia to Washington.
updated 1/17/2009 8:49:21 AM ET 2009-01-17T13:49:21

President-elect Barack Obama said Saturday his inauguration will be more than simply a transfer of power; it should be a celebration of the American spirit.

Obama said his swearing-in Tuesday is a rite of passage that the country marks every four years as a testament to its democratic ideals. He cautioned that its tradition should not be taken for granted.

"We must remember that our nation was founded at a time of kings and queens, and even today billions of people around the world cannot imagine their leaders giving up power without strife or bloodshed," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

He noted that peaceful transfers between U.S. presidents have come regardless of circumstance.

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"Inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace; in Depression and prosperity," Obama said. "Our democracy has undergone many changes, and our people have taken many steps in pursuit of a more perfect union. What has always endured is this peaceful and orderly transition of power."

Aides to Obama and President George W. Bush have been working together on a transfer of power that takes place at noon Tuesday. Obama aides have visited the White House to meet with their counterparts and in the past week teamed up for a rehearsal of how to handle a hypothetical terrorist attack on an American city.

In his Saturday address, Obama also previewed themes of Tuesday's inauguration speech, such as the nation's challenge in coping with its economic crisis.

"There is much work to be done. But now, all Americans hold within our hands the promise of a new beginning," he said. "That is why the events of the next several days are not simply about the inauguration of an American president; they will be a celebration of the American people."

Obama said he wouldn't shy from the challenges he inherits of reviving a sickly economy, preserving peace and keeping the nation safe.

"As we approach this time-honored American tradition, we are reminded that our challenges can be met if we summon the spirit that has sustained our democracy since George Washington took the first oath of office," Obama said, citing the nation's first president and the "veneration and love" he shared for his new country.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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