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Obama aims to 'reboot' U.S. image with Muslims

Following tradition, he also will include his middle name, Hussein, at his swearing-in.

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama says he will try to "reboot America's image" among the world's Muslims and will follow tradition by using his entire name - Barack Hussein Obama - in his swearing-in ceremony Jan. 20.

"The tradition is that they use all three names, and I will follow the tradition, not trying to make a statement one way or another," he said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

Obama renewed his pledge to work to repair America's reputation worldwide and said that one element of that effort would be a speech delivered in a Muslim capital.

"It's something I intend to follow through on," he said. "We've got a unique opportunity to reboot America's image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular."

He said his message would be twofold: that his administration will be unyielding in stamping out terrorist extremism but also "unrelenting in our desire to create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership with countries."

"I think the world is ready for that message," he said in the Tuesday interview.

Obama also talked about the spiritual support he sought during his White House bid, particularly since he and his family left Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ after inflammatory comments by its pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, became a campaign issue.

A wide prayer circle

He said he had set up a "sort of prayer circle across the country" of pastors who would pray for him every morning on a conference call. Obama said he sometimes joined the call, which involved leaders from various Christian denominations and other religious faiths.

"I'm not even sure that all of them voted for me," Obama said. "But they were willing to pray for me, and that's something that was wonderful."

Obama would not put a timetable on issues important to organized labor, what he called his promise to "put an end to the kinds of barriers and roadblocks that are in the way of workers legitimately coming together in order to form a union and bargain collectively."

And he said he would make enforcing civil rights laws and making the criminal-justice system color-blind top priorities for his administration. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division "over the last eight years has had a lot of problems and really declining morale," he said.

'My Kennebunkport'

He also said he and his family would make frequent visits during his presidency back to their home in Chicago. "My Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago," he said. "Our friends are here. Our family is here. And so we are going to try to come back here as often as possible."

Inaugural planners said yesterday that the event would be a four-day affair, from Jan. 18-21, replete with the traditional balls but also featuring service projects to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The event's theme, "Renewing America's Promise," is the same one used for the Democratic National Convention in Denver and for the party's national platform. It's a nod to the optimism that Obama tapped into during his marathon campaign.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee yesterday released a statement by Obama that captures the spirit: "At this moment of great challenge and great change, renewing the promise of America begins with renewing the idea that in America, we rise or fall as one nation and one people. That sense of unity and shared purpose is what this inauguration will reflect."

The schedule includes an event Sunday, Jan. 18, to welcome visitors to the nation's capital. The next day, the national holiday honoring King, Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will perform a service project and urge others across the country to follow their lead in honor of the civil rights leader.

Inauguration Day will feature many of the events of past swearing-in ceremonies: the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol, the parade to the White House, and the traditional inaugural balls.

An Honored Place for Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen,

who made history in World War II as the nation's first black military pilots, only to return home to bias and exclusion from victory parades, have been invited to Barack Obama's inauguration.

John L. Harrison Jr.

of Philadelphia, an airman now in his 80s, plans to attend. "It makes us very, very proud," he said. "And it sort of compensates for a lot of the things that we had to endure in the early days."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

(D., Calif.) sent the invitation Tuesday to Tuskegee Airmen Inc., which represents 330 of the original pilots, whose ranks were once about 1,000. Each airman will receive two tickets in the seating area around the Capitol.

The airmen

were recruited into an Army Air Corps program that trained blacks to fly and maintain aircraft in a segregated unit in Tuskegee, Ala. After the war, they returned home to discrimination.

"We were excluded

out of everything and hidden from everything," said 92-year-old Spann Watson, a former airman from Westbury, N.Y. "Now this time is our time."

- Associated Press