President-elect Barack Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and their families will volunteer in the Washington area that day, a day before the Jan. 20 inauguration. They're asking Americans to do the same in their own communities.
"I think it will capture the imagination of the American people," Powell said, adding that there was a "fervor" for the new administration that should be tapped.
The goal is to make public service a greater priority throughout American life.
"It's not enough, I think, just to do it one day a year," Powell said.
The inaugural committee launched a Web site, USAService.org, to help Americans find opportunities to volunteer in their own communities. Spokeswoman Linda Douglass said there are already nearly 5,000 online listings, and people are welcome to add their own.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps, has been working for 14 years to make King day a national day of service at the request of Congress. They also worked with the inaugural committee on the new project.
Although a troubled economy has meant a drop in charitable giving, Powell said he was confident that Obama and Biden could appeal to the generous American spirit.
"My experience is, in time of need, the American people recognize that they have to do more than they would have otherwise," he said.
Powell founded the America's Promise Alliance, a group that tries to improve children's lives, and has also worked with the Boys and Girls Club and the United Negro College Fund.
He said he has not been asked to work in the Obama Administration and has made it clear he doesn't want to.
"I'm not looking for a job," he said. "I'm very happy in private life, thank you very much."
--- On the Net: http://usaservice.org/