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Obama praises McCain at bipartisan dinner

WASHINGTON - Calling John McCain an American hero who set a standard of patriotism and bipartisanship for all to follow, President-elect Barack Obama lavished praise on his former election rival at a dinner last night.

Putting their campaign criticisms behind them, Obama called for help "in making this bipartisan dinner not just an inaugural tradition, but a new way of doing the people's business in this city."

Obama called the former Vietnam prisoner of war a "rare and courageous public servant," who places country before party.

"Let us strive always to find that common ground, and to defend together those common ideals, for it is the only way we can meet the very big and very serious challenges that we face right now," said Obama, who also arranged to attend dinners for Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican.

Elsewhere, at a teen- and tween-filled "Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future" concert, Michelle Obama challenged the audience to serve their country.

She got a response from the audience at the Verizon Center last night that surpassed even the appearance of teen star Miley Cyrus.

"You kids are the future of this great nation," Obama said to the crowd largely made up of military families and their charged-up children. "We need every American to serve their community, including our young people."

What can kids do? she wondered aloud: Volunteer in a homeless shelter, visit an elderly person or write letters to U.S. troops.

"For many of you, they're you're moms and dads, right?" Obama said. "Barack, Malia, Sasha and I are so grateful for the service and sacrifice all our military families make to help keep this nation safe."

Cyrus performed for the first time her inspirational song, "The Climb," before the Obamas' daughters, well-known fans of Cyrus' Disney TV alter ego, Hannah Montana.

Cyrus later went into the audience to quiz kids on some history: What was President Ulysses S. Grant driving when he got the first-ever presidential speeding ticket? The crowd correctly picked a horse and buggy over a skateboard or Ferrari.

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