20 JANUARY 2009

In jeans and with a paintbrush in hand, Barack Obama was putting his last few hours before being sworn into the most powerful office on Earth to good use. The US leader was pictured, sleeves rolled up, doing voluntary work the day before his historic inauguration as America's first black president and the nation's 44th.

Taken at a homeless shelter on the US' national holiday honouring Martin Luther King, the image was intended to convey his message that a new era of service - like that exemplified by the civil rights hero - is required.

"Given the crisis that we're in and the hardships that so many people are going through, we can't allow any idle hands," said Mr Obama. "Everybody's got to be involved. Everybody's going to have to pitch in," he added.

These themes will be reflected in his inaugural address, which many expect to echo John F Kennedy's 1961 exhortation "ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country".

It was a message which already seems to have resonated with members of the entertainment world. Spiderman star Tobey Maguire and singer Usher were both among those following their new commander-in-chief's example by lending a hand with building work at a Washington primary school.

Photo: Getty Images
Taking up a paint roller at a shelter for runaway kids just 24 hours before Tuesday's historic inauguration, Mr Obama was reinforcing his message to Americans that a new era of service has begun
Photo: Getty Images
"Given the crisis we're in, everybody's going to have to pitch in," he insists
Photo: Rex
Spiderman star Tobey Maguire is one of the famous faces who has already responded, doing his bit with a spot of volunteering at a Washington primary school
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