CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates speaks at 51st MLK Celebration

Laura Coates speaks at MLK Celebration

CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates speaks at 51st MLK Celebration

By Aaron Marshall

Urging listeners to pay attention to their own moral conscience, CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates said Americans must continue to advance the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. even when it seems in vain.

During remarks made at the 51st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on January 26th, the legal analyst and radio host compared King's quest for greater equality to the futile figure of Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure doomed for eternity to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top. "What made him get up again and again and still roll back the rock?" she asked. "I think he was afraid of what stopping might look like."

Coates told the assembled crowd of several hundred that King's fearless vision speaks to the internal moral compass that all human beings possess. “Courage does not roar like a lion," she said. "Sometimes it's the quiet voice in the middle of the night that tells you to try again tomorrow. Disregard the fear of what people might see and imagine that mountaintop that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. imagined. What do you see yonder and where will you be on that horizon?"

Relaxed and personable, Coates traced her path from federal prosecutor in the Justice Department to the CNN legal analyst desk during a question-and-answer session that followed her remarks. Noting that her last day at the Justice Department was on the Martin Luther King holiday, Coates said she felt a newborn freedom when she left the courtroom for broadcast journalism. "I thought I'm going to retire from the law and figure out the stories I have learned and be a conduit of information," she said.

Opening the night's program was Yolanda Zepeda, the interim vice provost for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, who told the crowd that King's dream of a more just and equitable society is reflected in her office's drive to remove barriers to success for historically marginalized communities. “The need is there and the time is now, " said Zepeda. "While Dr. King has left us, his vision for greater reconciliation, healing, and justice lives on in our hearts and in our actions."

Rounding out the program were brief remarks from a representative from the Black Students Association, a performance by the African American Voices Choir as well as a special gift presentation to Coates of a kente cloth stole from Dr. Andre Brown, interim director of the Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center. "She is keeping it real in the culture by telling the truth," said Brown as he praised the 42-year-old NY Times best-selling author for her honesty.