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On MLK Day, The Perseverance of the Social Entrepreneur

By Nell Edgington

Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who arguably could be called one of the first social entrepreneurs. The thing about social change is that it can be incredibly difficult, heart-breaking and time-consuming. It takes a tremendous tenacity to persevere until change comes.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King, which I think of often, counsels us to be patient and believe in change. Speaking on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in March of 1965, King said:

I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?”….

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.

How long?  Not long, because no lie can live forever.

How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow….

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

You can watch a clip of that speech above, or click here to watch it if you are reading this in an email.

And I’m also reminded of this beautiful blog post that Kjerstin Erickson, a social entrepreneur working with African refugees, wrote three years ago. As does any social entrepreneur, she had grown tired of the slow pace of change. But with King’s words she found solace and the will to move forward:

And yet, we’ve all found ourselves in moments like these. It’s part of the process of reconciling the world we want with the world we live in. To make it through such times, we often have no option but to turn to the words of those wiser than we. On this national holiday, it’s a fitting tribute to Martin Luther King’s legacy that to recognize the role that his words continue to play in the internal struggles of so many of us seekers. For me personally, King’s words on the human struggle for a loving world are the first I turn to when in need of clarity or solace. To me his brilliance lies in the way that he never told anyone anything new, but rather elucidated the truths they always already knew. If you find yourself struggling with any of the questions I asked above, perhaps you will, like me, find your answer within yourself through the words of these timeless passages.

All of us working toward social change must remember these words. There are times when the end goal seems so far away, when the hurdles appear completely insurmountable. It is at those very times that you must pick yourself up, take a deep breath, and move another step forward.

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (, a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.

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