Taking a day off from election squabbles and promoting national unity, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain visited the site of the World Trade Center together Thursday afternoon, before addressing a forum on service in the city.
The candidates were accompanied in their visit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cindy McCain. Walking side-by-side, the two senators walked down the ramp to the site of the attack. There, they greeted first responders to the attack, placed roses in the reflecting pools, and had a silent moment of prayer.
Thursday evening, they attended the ServiceNation Forum at Columbia University to speak about civic engagement. ServiceNation is a two-day summit meant to promote national service.
During his nearly hour-long discussion with hosts Judy Woodruff , of PBS' "NewsHour," and Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel, McCain said that while AmeriCorps and Peacecorps deserve more federal funding, Washington should limit its involvement in private volunteer organizations and should be careful about expanding the government's role.
"I'd be glad to spend money, but I don't think that should be our first priority," said the Republican presidential candidate.
McCain, a former prisoner of war, also said that more colleges should allow military representation onto their campuses. Columbia University currently does not allow ROTC.
Following McCain, the Democratic presidential candidate addressed the crowd at his alma mater.
Obama talked about his decision to work with the needy on the South Side of Chicago, instead of a lucrative job on Wall Street. He also spoke of the necessity of service scholarships for college students.
"Inspiring young people to serve is something the president is in a unique position to do," said Obama.
In contrast to McCain, the Illinois senator said the government should expand opportunities for volunteering.
The candidates have suspended their critical advertising Thursday and they said the would keep their appearances respectful and politics free.
In a statement Thursday morning, Obama called on Americans to "renew that spirit of service and that sense of common purpose" that followed 9/11.
Earlier Thursday, Obama met with former President Bill Clinton in Harlem for lunch.
During the visit, the former president said he will be hitting the campaign trail for Obama in Florida later this month. He also said the Democrat would win in November.
"I predict Senator Obama will win and win pretty handily," said Clinton.
"You can take it from the president of the United States, he knows a little something about politics," said Obama.
Obama had kind words for Clinton later at the ServiceNation Forum, saying he admired his creation of AmeriCorps.
Obama's running mate Joe Biden attended a memorial at an American Legion post in Cleveland.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was in her home state of Alaska Thursday attending her son's deployment ceremony as he heads off to Iraq.