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Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
President Barack Obama stops to greet tourists during his surprise walk across the ellipse in Washington as they head towards the Dept. of Interior, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Obama decided to walk to the Department of Interior to sign a proclamation regarding the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

WASHINGTON — It was a rare view of President Barack Obama: strolling along the National Mall with suit jacket slung over his shoulder.

The president on Wednesday walked through a grassy area on the mall known as the Ellipse on his way to the Interior Department to sign a proclamation designating a national monument in New Mexico.

After making some remarks, Obama retraced his path back to the White House, and greeted tourists, saying, "We can shake hands. I won't bite." One lady squealed after shaking hands and taking pictures.

Obama's busy day included meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (shin-SEHK'-ee) and making brief remarks to reporters afterward, and later honoring the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.