I went to see Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey.
He is absolutely a rock star politician. I’ve seen politicians talk before, but never like this.
He was supposed to talk for about 30 minutes. He ended up talking more than an hour. He spoke completely without notes. Granted, I’m sure that there’s probably a stock core to the speech, but he kept it vibrant and apparently spontaneous. It was a bravura performance.
His whole message centers around love. People speak about tolerance. Tolerance should be the absolute floor of feeling. Tolerance implies that you let the other person live but that you would not be affected if the person would cease to exist. We should all aim for the higher plane of truly feeling love for each other.
This could easy have been a self-righteous, sanctimonious, holier than thou sort of speech, and in less capable hands, it probably would have been. Throughout his entire speech, he was self deprecating and frankly admitting all of the ways that he himself does not live up to this ideal, but failing at an ideal is not an excuse to stop attempting the pursuit of it.
He was passionate. He told a deeply moving story that connected the help that his father received that in turn led directly to the charmed life that Senator Booker leads to a young man in Newark that was murdered that he tried to mentor but then kind of lost track of while he was caught up being the mayor. He was near tears as he told this story. The story is too long to tell hear, but is the source of this blog’s title.
He told a story that made a connection between his father’s ability to buy a house in a middle class neighborhood that in turn gave Senator Booker education opportunities that propelled him on the path that he’s on today with Bloody Sunday , a day in which civil rights workers, including most famously John Lewis, were attacked as they crossed over the Edmund Pettus bridge during their march from Selma to Montgomery. State troopers attacked the non-violent marchers. This attack inspired a lawyer to support Booker’s father in his attempt to own a house in a neighborhood that previously was whites only.
He told another story connecting an act of kindness that he did for a mother with two young children on a cross country flight to his later mayoral elections in Newark.
The message is that acts do matter. Acts do have a butterfly effect that can cause significant ramifications.
I found it interesting that Senator Patty Murray was there as well (in the audience). He was clearly stumping her candidacy by repeatedly trumpeting her many accomplishments and describing what a role model she is. Senator Murray has been a senator for 24 years. Senator Booker has been one for 2 years, and yet, it was Senator Murray that was trying to ride his very charismatic coattails.
As a black man, he seemed to walk a narrow tightrope on race issues. On the one hand, he was very forthright about the racial injustice that is still rampant today. I’ve just read the New Jim Crow and he cites those same statistics and describes how the war on crime has been an attack on minorities. He did this all in a non-threatening manner. After all, he was in Seattle. The audience, by Seattle’s measurements, was diverse, but still probably at least 70% white. His response to these issues seemed calm and measured, especially in comparison to some of the passion that he showed in earlier parts of his talk. I’d be interested to hear him speak in front of a predominantly black crowd to see how much he tunes his speech to the audience in front of him. I’m sure that all politicians do this.
By the end of his talk, he completely had the crowd in the palm of his hands. He received three standing ovations. He was by far the most inspiring person that I’ve ever heard speak. It’s distressing that he’s not running for president this year. I think that his message of love and optimism could have truly been a uniting factor and if, God helps us, Trump wins the Republican nomination, would have absolutely overwhelmed him.
I think, in all seriousness, that he could be the man that could change our nation.