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Failure Isn’t An Option, MLK Day Speaker Tells VT Law School

January 18, 2012

Some of America's founding fathers owned slaves, but their pursuit of equality, justice and a "more perfect union" remains relevant today, Vermont Law School's Martin Luther King, Jr., Day speaker said Tuesday.

Image of Martin Luther KingIn his keynote address, Colmon Elridge III, 30, the youngest gubernatorial executive assistant in the nation, said America's failure to create a perfect union shouldn't discourage people of all races from continuing to pursue that goal.

Shirley Jefferson, associate dean for Student Affairs and Diversity, and Dean Jeff Shields told the audience that King's courage and non-violent tactics have prompted many improvements in society, but that much work remains to be done.

Elridge became executive assistant to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in 2007 when he was 26. He also is the first African-American executive vice president of Young Democrats of America. In 2007, he introduced then-presidential candidate Barack Obama when he visited Lexington.

During his MLK Day talk, Elridge discussed the inconsistencies between some of the founding father's words and their actions, but he said they set the nation on a never ending struggle for justice for all its residents.

The founding fathers had "aspirational strength humbled by human weakness," which King understood to be part of humankind's "self-inflicted imperfections," he said.

But America's inability to achieve perfection "isn't an excuse not to try," he said. "Our nation's collective dream of commonality is stronger than that which separates us."

Elridge said the United States was at a critical moment in its history. He urged Americans to reject political divisiveness "for a common purpose of betterment of all people, not for what's politically expedient."

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