Reflections on Dr. King's Legacy for Today's Politics of Intolerance

With the rhetoric of intolerance and the drumbeat of war dominating the Republican Party's presidential spectacle, this is an important time to reflect on how Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he embodied changed our nation and our lives for the better.

Dr. King, Pope Francis, Nelson Mandela and the millions of people engaged in nonviolent human rights struggles for justice, then and now, are beacons of strength, hope, and progress in a world often darkened by greed, hate, and violence.

Their courageous commitment to human decency and forceful opposition to injustice move us closer to what Dr. King called The Beloved Community -- where, The King Center explains: everyone would share in the earth's bounty; commitment to human decency would not allow hunger, homelessness and poverty; all forms of bigotry and discrimination would be replaced by an understanding of our common humanity; justice and peace would trump vengeance and war.

Today's Republican Party presidential campaign is dominated by hate, animosity, and noxious rhetoric. In Dr. King's spirit, people of good will -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike -- have a responsibility to name Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and those echoing their intolerance for what they are -- dangerous throwbacks to the bigotry of the past.

Dr. King left a legacy of nonviolent struggle against injustice, love, inclusion, equality, and -- perhaps most importantly -- of seeing the dignity in every man, woman and child.

It is ever more pressing that we do the hard work Dr. King challenged us to take on. Only together, through love and community effort, can we create the country he envisioned so our children and our children's children have equal opportunities to create the more perfect union our founders intended.

Eric Kingson, professor of social work at Syracuse University and co-founder of Social Security Works, is a candidate for the House of Representatives in New York's 24th Congressional District. His most recent book (co-authored with Nancy J. Altman) is "Social Security Works: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and Why Expanding It will Help Us All"