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This week’s presidential inauguration marks a turning point in national politics and a reminder, through remembrance of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that words are the sharp edge of action to achieve reform or change. A call to action typically precedes voluntary physical movement. It is the intent and content of such words that will define what actually happens. In the realm of thoughts and ideas, dark fears and laudable aspirations share space; motive and content will determine the outcome.

Many of the same fears, prejudices and obstacles that faced Dr. King in the 1950s and 1960s remain today, amplified by words uttered by unethical politicians and false prophets. True intent is often veiled by specious arguments that promote division and instability. Evidence of the power and activation of this is evident in the events of the past several weeks. Internal strife inspired by these words is insidious. Under a cloak of civility, reasonable words are melded into irrational and perverse sentences. The resulting paragraph is a testament to corruption of a coherent and honest concept.

The Greek mathematician, scientist and inventor Archimedes (287 – 212 BC) spoke about harnessing the power of physical movement saying, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” He was referring to mechanical manipulation, but the same can be said for words. As his thoughts and words were a precursor to many basic principles of physics, mathematics and astronomy, they survived through his written works. Just as a fulcrum – the stationary object that allows a lever to exert force – is essential for levers, so too are words, a critical component of information leading to action.

What does a reverend from the 60s and a Greek mathematician have to do with today? Along with a plethora of great minds that influenced the present through the past, the basic tenet of their lives was to think of the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, we have recently witnessed the results of poorly constructed paragraphs assembled with words that imply a different context. Words such as “freedom” and “democracy” have been linked to particular ideologies that stray from the intent when initially woven into the Constitution of the United States of America. Misrepresentation and fraudulent use of these words as well as malevolent goals have misled a significant segment of society.

Care with words is essential when using them as a catalyst for action. We have witnessed angry and spiteful words employed as incitement for insurrection and yet, in the same short period of time, honor the use of words to effect change and revere humanity in its highest sense. It will serve all of us well to remember that thought translated into communication carries responsibility for its consequences. The month of January 2021 has demonstrated two opposing results of words: to incite toward peace and harmony or pillage and destruction. Which words will you choose in your life?