Recently, I had the true privilege of participating, along with 45 others, in a Zoom call with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. I was delighted to find that, in addition to the intelligence and exuberance I was expecting, Sen. Booker was refreshingly open, authentic, and vulnerable. He has natural candor, not just in his communication, but rooted in how he lives his life.
As we waited for everyone to join, Sen. Booker spent a few moments checking in with several of the participants, speaking directly to some and calling them by name (as displayed on the Zoom thumbnails). Sharing with us that his girlfriend is moving in with him, and admitting a sense of naivety, he asked several of the couples who appeared together for advice on navigating living with a significant other.
Sen. Booker, who grew up in a nearly all-white suburb and was well-educated at Stanford, Oxford and Yale, moved into one of Newark’s toughest crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, drug-immersed neighborhoods… and he hasn’t left.
You can’t live in a community like this and not live with a sense of urgency. And this is not the exception in America. This is the reality. (Booker, for a profile in Politico, February 1, 2019.)
The way he describes it, Sen. Booker felt he had to immerse himself in the struggling urban area in order to fully understand it and to see clearly how to help. This is an incredible dedication to understanding and valuing other perspectives. Whereas many elected officials only ever pop into perilous neighborhoods, Sen. Booker’s choice forces him to disregard assumptions and to fight for transforming opportunity in America’s most challenged communities.
Focus on What Matters
A few years ago, I heard Sen. Booker reference “sedentary agitation,” and I started paying closer attention. He said we had to stop living with unacceptable circumstances, and that if we’re not OK with something, we had to do something, anything. On our call, he reiterated:
I had to realize that even if I can’t do everything, I cannot do nothing.
Sen. Booker went on to remind us of what matters most:
We need to find people for elected office who don’t confuse wealth with worth.