Booker shares journey to politics, inspirations


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Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Sen. Cory Booker addresses Rutgers community at Hickman Hall on Douglass campus.


Cory Booker said today’s generation of twenty-somethings, commonly referred to as “millennials,” have more power to facilitate change than any previous generation.

New Jersey’s first black senator, who came from humble beginnings, spoke to an audience of students and faculty in the Hickman Hall auditorium on Douglass campus yesterday about what inspired him to lead his political career and what drives him every day.

Booker recalled the stories his civil rights activist parents told around the kitchen table when he was a child and how he became inspired by the power people have to make a difference.

The stories they told about the fight for civil rights gave Booker confidence in the idea that people working together to make a difference, as opposed to politicians trying to make the difference for people, is the most effective way to spur change.

It was this belief that made Booker think he was not meant to be a politician when he graduated from college.

When people come together to fight for a cause, change is possible. He believes change also occurs because of something he calls the “virality of love.”

This idea refers to the power of love and when it goes viral, it cannot go ignored.

In support of this idea, Booker told the story of youth involvement in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. gathered hundreds of people to march for civil rights in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Booker said the majority of marchers were between the ages of eight and 18.

Police officers used fire hoses with intense water pressure to attack the child activists.

The attacks inspired King to gather children to fight for his cause, Booker said.

The next time he led a march in Birmingham, the police released dogs on the children. Due to increased interest after the first march, national media arrived to catch footage of the incident.

“The courage of these children — the love of these kids — it went viral,” he said.

 Booker thinks that young people have the power to facilitate change and uses the example of youth in the civil rights movement as historical proof of this “virality of love.”

“Millennials don’t get caught up in differences like my generation,” he said. “They are finding ways to connect over race, religion, geography in ways we couldn’t do before.”

Kathy Kleeman, senior communications officer for the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said the Institute brought Booker to Rutgers because he is one of the two state senators — a position that is more prestigious in New Jersey than in other states.

“New Jersey is different than a lot of states in that we have very few people elected statewide,” she said. “So those who are elected are very important, powerful and invincible people that we should hear from.”

Students filled the Hickman Hall auditorium to capacity. Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and alumni made their presence known to Booker by laughing at his jokes, challenging his notions and communicating freely about various concerns from gun violence to college tuition.

Tyler Mataya, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, was not familiar with Booker’s politics before he saw him speak but walked away with a new perspective on the politician.

“Before tonight, I actually didn’t know much about him,” Mataya said. “But he inspired me a lot, he made me feel like if you have the numbers and a goal, you can do anything you want.”


By Erin Walsh

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