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MLK Day speakers urge greater community involvement

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St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter speaks at the MLK Day celebration.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter speaks at the state's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on Monday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called on city residents Monday to rededicate themselves to building a safe and promising city, serving in the model of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Carter addressed a crowd of hundreds on hand for the state's official observance of the holiday honoring King.

"We have work to do to build a partnership with our schools, our rec centers and our libraries, to build families success, to build young children and ensure all of our children are ready for the future. We have work to do to create a fair, local economy that works for all of our families," said Carter in his keynote address at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Day celebration at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. 

He repeated his intention to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour and to reset the relationship between the city's police and residents, vowing to build on "a sacred trust that flows between our police officers and our neighbors." Carter also said he wants to get more St. Paul residents to participate in local government processes.

"If you think something is wrong with the way this country and this world is going, there is a higher calling than Facebook," Carter said. "We need you. We need you plugged in. ... We're going to ask you to help build and be stewards of the big vision we built for our city. We're going to ask you to come to the Capitol for us and help us advocate for the change we need. We're going to ask you to show up at a library and read to children in our community. Will you be there to help us?"

Carter is the city's first African-American mayor, a fourth generation St. Paulite, and a longtime champion for racial equity. 

Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and Minneapolis state Rep. Ilhan Omar, all DFLers, also spoke to the crowd at the two-plus hour event. All spoke on the day's theme, taken from one of King's most famous remarks, made in a speech in Montgomery, Ala., in 1957: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"