By Cody Heintz and Robert Binger
Cory Booker, now serving in his second term as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, spoke at Hofstra on Wednesday, Feb.29 in the Helene Fortunoff Theater of Monroe Lecture Center to kick off the University's 2012 Pride, Politics & Policy events as the University prepares for the 2012 Presidential Debate.
The speech aimed to empower students to take action that would improve their communities, and to improve the world through small acts of kindness. Booker didn't use his time at Hofstra to speak about policy or preach his record as Newark mayor, but rather to encourage students to be true to themselves and to take responsibility for the world in which they live. He was told that going into politics would leave him like many politicians today: depressed and hopeless.
"I have more faith in what we can do in this nation now, than ever," said Booker.
Booker used examples from his personal and family life to illustrate how different acts of kindness can affect a community. He gave a story of his father's hometown, which pitched together to generate enough money so that his father could go to college. Booker also shared the story of how black and white people came together to help African Americans gain equality in housing, which is how Booker's parents were able to buy a house in Harrington Park.
"We got there because of Americans that did things not required of them," said Booker.
Early in his career as councilman of Newark, Booker spent 10 days living in a tent while on a hunger strike. The hunger strike's purpose was to promote the lack of police presence in a crime-ridden section of his district in the Central Ward. Booker proceeded with the hunger strike because though he did not know exactly what to do to solve the problem, he felt that acting on the cause was better than taking no action at all.
Optimistically, Booker also spoke about how people have to see the good in life and not always view the glass half empty. Among several hilarious and inspiring stories, Mayor Booker told one of an experience he had while flying. He sat next to a woman with a crying baby and a toddler, rather than joining everyone on the plane in scorning the woman, he tried to sympathize with her and make it the best plane ride of his life. Fifteen years later, that woman's family came to own a factory in Newark and stood behind Mayor Booker in his election process.
"Every moment of your life gives you a chance," said Booker. "Nothing at all is ever wasted unless you choose to waste things."
Booker shared the story of how he first arrived in Newark as a law student from Yale University who wanted to change the world from the get-go. When Booker met the tenant president at the Brick Towers, he discovered that in order to learn how to improve the city, he would first have to see its beauty. Booker recalled how the tenant president told him, "If you are one of those stubborn people that every time you open your eyes and you see hope, possibility, opportunity, love, and the face of God. If you can be one of those people, then that can help me."
A question and answer session followed the speech, allowing Hofstra students to ask Mayor Booker some of their own questions. After Booker left Monroe Theater, he attended a reception at Hofstra Hall where students were able ask Booker questions on a one-on-one level.