During today’s (6/14/17) U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce meeting, I had the honor of listening to a very emotional yet encouraging speech by the junior United States Senator from New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker.
Senator Booker attended Stanford University, where he played college football and received a Bachelor of Arts in political science, along with a Master’s degree in sociology. Later, he attended the University of Oxford and upon returning to the United States, earned his Doctor’s degree from Yale Law School. He was the 36th Mayor of Newark, in office from October 2013 to July 2016.
Despite his outstanding background, both academically and politically, he never moved out of his neighborhood, a small and crowded black neighborhood in Harrington Park, New Jersey.
His parents, Carolyn Rose and Cary Alfred Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM, and the tradition of excellence his parents represents makes Senator Booker believe that, given the opportunity, black children will perform just as well as white children. Holding to this belief, he devotes his life to building a better society for minority and women, helping them grow up in an environment with more opportunity, seeking to change the fact that, although black makes up 12% of the entire population in the United States, only 3.6% of the startup businesses are led by black.
The theme of his speech was “Stay Faithful.” Senator Booker gave several examples from his life, clear testimony of the distant, yet crucial, social equality factors affecting minorities and women.
He gave stories that highlighted the experience of growing up in a minority neighborhood, the sound of gunshots and police car sirens facilitating his transformation from childhood to adulthood. He noted that despite the much higher violence rate, mainstream media rarely reports the social problems within his neighborhood. The lack of concern, along with the stereotype of disorderliness and poverty in black neighborhoods, has created a barrier to success that hides the genius and talents within those neighborhoods.
Senator Booker wants to use his influence to help minority neighborhoods flourish. Carrying the idea of fixing the chaos forward, Senator Booker tells the story of meeting Miss Virginia Jones, a community leader in Newark, and offering, eagerly, to help. “Tell me what you see. Describe what you see around you” she asked. After Senator Booker answered using words like: chaotic, messy and unregulated," she replied: “Boy, if that’s all you see, you can never help me. The world you see outside of you is a reflection of what you have inside of you. And only when you see hope, opportunity, possibility love, then you can help me make a change”
Another story Senator Booker concerned his parents. The Booker family once wanted to buy a house, but was told by the real estate agency that the house had been sold. They later found out that the house had not been sold. Feeling unfairly treated, the family hired a lawyer and approached the agency, demanding a proper response. When his father's lawyer and his father approached the agency, the agency's owner punched the lawyer and sicced a dog on Booker's father. (As the Senator noted, with each telling, the dog seemed to get larger.) It is woeful events like this that shaped Senator Booker’s mindset: to strengthen black people’s social position and to promote social equality.
But, as old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. People may lose faith and question their abilities to change their social status.
In closing, Senator Booker cited his father, who said poverty is not measured in monetary value, but by your determination to turn the bad around you into the good.
All you have to do, once on the right path, is to stay faithful.