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President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address this past week evoked Martin Luther King Jr. when King said Americans “bound by a common creed” will lift their voices and “have the final word.”

The president gave a speech meant to inspire Americans to turn away from cynicism toward citizen action for a better, more unified and fair nation.

It was criticized on many fronts, of course. These speeches are always an opportunity for political naysayers to advance their agenda — and in an election year, even more so.

Political opponents said he painted too rosy and optimistic a picture. GOP presidential hopefuls in their subsequent debate tried to counter the president’s message by painting a decidedly dire picture of America and placing blame at the president’s feet.

Some said he didn’t go far enough in decrying racism, economic inequality and militarism. Progressive talk show host Tavis Smiley said the president evoked King but the King of the civil rights era, not King’s vision updated for today’s racial experience. Not mentioning Black Lives Matter was a critical omission, Smiley opined.

One thing on which we should all be able to agree is that the president was right to call on all of us to take action to make our communities safer and more equitable places — and we should agree that we must answer that call.

We are proud that such is the case in York today, where a number of Martin Luther King Day events are taking place to put the human rights hero’s vision into practice. That is certainly what King intended when he called on us to combat racial inequity through nonviolent civil disobedience grounded in faith and community service performed with love.

The president also was right when he said it’s easier to be cynical than to work for the ideal democracy. We have much to be grateful for, there are more than enough resources to go around, and if we would relax the battle lines and join hands, that hard work would be made lighter and profoundly more purposeful.

In the words of the great Dr. King:

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

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