In Wednesday's Sentinel, there was a report of various local responses to the president's State of the Union Address of 2013.

In Wednesday's Sentinel, there was a report of various local responses to the president's State of the Union Address of 2013.

As expected, to some, the president simply mouthed the same political jargon he has for his first four years of his presidency. Those of us, however, who have and do support President Obama heard another clarion call for America to fulfill its destiny as a free nation, with liberty and justice for all.

The president proclaimed a "vision" for America; a vision that can enhance the well being and quality of life for all citizens. His words were uplifting and challenging.

The national need for job growth was his primary emphasis. He called for another infra-structure improvement program to repair our failing bridges and rough highways. This would provide jobs for many Americans and benefit us all. The president called for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage that would significantly assist us "5" figure income families to rise above the poverty level. The president cited the need for an increasingly better-educated work force. To implement that, he suggested support for a universal pre-school program, especially for the poor, to better prepare our children to learn. He talked of partnerships between government and private industry, between America and other nations, to boost technical development and training. His programs offered hope for many struggling Americans.

This was especially true in his urging Congress to pass extensive immigration reform. There are thousands of immigrants, legally waiting or illegally present, who need some sort of recourse to peaceful habitation. Reform ideas always included strengthened borders to forestall illegal entry into the U.S., and some sort of regulated process to gain legal citizenship. The word "amnesty" is always shunned. Providing an easy and swift means of becoming Americans for those already within our country is not "amnesty." Even so, I can't fathom how any Christian can shun the word "amnesty" for those who've broken one of our laws. On the Cross of Jesus, every human-being was granted amnesty for all their transgressions by a loving God. Can we do less for those who simply wish to creatively share our land? We have an invitation to foreigners placarded on our Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breath free; the refuse of your teeming shore. Send them, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me…!" That surely should be the spirit of any law concerning immigrants. That spirit would give life to so many; the letter of the law only kills.

Gun control was the most powerful and emotional appeal of Obama's address. With several victims of gun violence, or surviving family members in attendance, the president spoke to the obvious need for stricter gun controls. Universal background checks, limits on the size of rapid-fire ammo-clips, and a renewal of the ban on assault weapons were all part of the president's agenda. I don't think he went far enough. Sadly with "weapons of mass destruction" (semi-automatic guns) readily available, the carnage will continue. Until we "get the guns," the guns will continue to get us.

There were more calls by Obama for legislative action, complete with willingness to compromise on any divisive issues. These are but a portion of the president's vision for America. His total emphasis was upon service to the many, with no narrow preference for the few. His vision is for all Americans; with it America will never perish, it will only prosper.

Of course, the only Republican response was negative and dismissive. They have nothing to talk about but the deficit! They always ignore that the financial shortfall resulted from the previous Republican president's wars of choice, and his Congress that year-after-year increased America's debt ceiling to pay for his aggression. The Republicans have such short and selective memories. Even though saddled with the Bush indebtedness and wars, President Obama has ended one war, and is soon to end the other deadly travesty. In his own way, he is working to reduce the deficit he was left with, without placing that financial burden on the least of his brethren, but on those with the most resources. Sadly the resulting 7,000-plus American war dead are ever a tragic part of the Republican legacy. I hope the Republicans don't again become the Party of "NO." Yet they seem so bitterly disappointed and angry by their failure to defeat Obama last year, that some may decide to punish the American people for not obeying and electing their neocon candidate by insuring that little or none of the president's vision become a reality. Punish him for winning and us for electing him, by defeating his vision and jeopardizing our country. They then could pay-back their Super Pacs and super rich backers for dropping the ball and wasting all their money. That even might be a way to get even more financial backing next time. Anyway, we'll see in the next few months.

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. For those who follow a religious liturgical calendar, it is the beginning of six weeks of penitence and contrition, when all are called to honestly face their own failings, confess, repent, and renew their commitment to God and His church. It seems an appropriate time for all Americans to examine our self serving ways, our swift condemnation of others and renew our commitment to being a nation that is "e pluribus unum" (out of many, one)… "with liberty and justice for all." The vision has been proclaimed; with it let us prosper together.

Fr. Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.