Yesterday my two congregations - like many - celebrated the life and ministry of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remembered his dream of the Beloved Community. Today, in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama gave the American people a powerful vision of community in his second inaugural address.
We are, said the president, not just a nation of individuals but a national community where success is measured on whether we all succeed or fail:
For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.
It is not enough that we have come so far in American life - through the Civil Rights Movement and on the road to equality between the sexes - when so many are still lift behind in the United States, argued President Obama forcefully.
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity -- until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
From my vantage point on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building you could see soldiers and veterans, gay couples and immigrants, women and men, young students and seniors loudly applaud the president's message and vision. Parents lifted their children up high to see the historic sight and hear these historic words. America needs to be a place that works for all people, President Obama maintained in his address. He summed a spirit of national unity and common purpose in his words.
The president also left no illusions about the challenges ahead of us. We still have to confront an economy that leaves too many trapped in poverty and the world is in peril if we do not address climate change.
But President Barack Obama left little doubt that for his part the time for "name-calling as reasoned debate" is over. It's time to move forward.
Dr. King, I suspect, would have been proud. Yet I think it is also safe to assume that the Alabama preacher would also be calling on the faith community to aid the president when possible and to push him, along with Congress and the public, when needed.
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