Friday, November 10, 2006

The Honorable Cory A. Booker


Is America ready for Cory Booker?

Booker is a Stanford University graduate (where he played on the varsity football team), a Rhodes scholar, a Yale-trained attorney, a former Newark, NJ City Council member and now the Mayor of that city.

Booker comes from upper-middle class roots. The son of two IBM executives, he grew up in the affluence of Harrington Park, NJ. He starred as an all-state football player at two positions in high school. He served as his high school class president. He and his older brother were the only black kids for miles. While at Stanford, he was elected class president again.

He'll tell you that his parents taught him two lessons that have shaped his life and his career choices. One, because of the privilege you enjoy, you have an obligation to give back. Two, the struggle to move into the middle class in racist, white America was no small accomplishment. The combination of these two parental directives explains a lot about Booker today.

While at Yale Law School, Booker moved into a boarding house in the roughest part of Newark so that he could be close to the people of the inner city. Booker spent his summer vacation in 1999 camped out in a tent that he set up in the garbage-strewn parking lot of a Newark housing project to draw attention to the deplorable conditions. As a result of his efforts and the publicity they attracted, the 550-unit Garden Spires apartments were dramatically improved.

In October 2006, Booker published "The First 100 Days," a report on his comprehensive strategy to revitalize Newark that outlines. . .

  • Creative approaches to improving public safety that involve community members at the heart of things
  • An aggressive economic development plan to revitalize the city's economy for everyone
  • Creative new attempts to strengthen families while nurturing children
  • A cutting edge commitment to reform local government and how it affects citizens
  • A model program to accommodate the city's ex-offender population at re-entry

It is quite a plan.

But then, he is quite the leader.

His unique commitment and perspective have contributed to the passage of strong laws designed to protect the poor. Thanks to his efforts, slumlords do jail time if they repeatedly fail to make their properties habitable.

The following quote comes from Stanford Magazine (March/April 2000) concerning Booker's natural ability to connect with everyone:

Booker does have a way of winning over his skeptics. When he was at Oxford, he stumbled into a meeting of the L'Chaim Society, a Jewish social and political organization. "I felt like I was walking into a scene from Yentl," he says. Within minutes, Booker had joined the discussion. By the end of the evening, he and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach were dancing with the Torah. The following year, Boteach asked Booker to run for president of L'Chaim. "Cory said to me, 'But I'm not Jewish, and I'm black,' " says Boteach. "I said, 'So what? You embody all the ideals that I want to represent.' He has a unique ability to treat everyone with decency and make them feel important." Some of L'Chaim's members objected, vehemently, to a non-Jewish president. But when the election came, Booker had become so popular -- and so serious about Judaism -- that he ran unopposed.

"I found in Judaism that I can touch and feel spiritualism," says Booker, who still considers himself a devout Christian. "You are supposed to shake your fist at God and demand justice in the world. That's so much at the core of who I am and at the core of the African experience in America."

Today, as he provides leadership for Newark, Booker resides in a public housing project among his city's poorest people.

I have a feeling that the public policy coming out of his office and from the Newark City Council under his watch will be groundbreaking and just what his city needs and what the whole country should pay attention to.

16 comments:

owldog said...

I LOVE IT, THE MAYOR LIVING IN THE PROJECTS WITH THE PEOPLE IN HIS CITY. What a great idea and talking about bringing attention to the everyday life of families in the community. I say every mayor in every city should do the same thing, I bet no more skipped trash days no matter the reason.

Daniel Gray said...

"You are supposed to shake your fist at God and demand justice in the world."

That's language I wasn't very familiar with growing up in church, but I like it...

Jim Martin said...

Larry--What a fascinating person and leader! Thanks for this introduction.

Mr. W said...

My mom was telling me about this guy... she said she knew I would like him.

I called ya a couple days back, just wanted to let you know. I'll call again soon.

Peace man!

MommyHAM said...

Larry,

Through you, I get introduced to some fabulous personalities - Mr. Booker, does indeed seem Honorable from this portrait. Amazing...

Thanks for reminding us that we are not alone in our mission and ideals :)

Heather

Larry James said...

Everyone, thanks for the posts! This guy is a winner, isn't he? I hope to have him come to Dallas for one of our annual Urban Ministry Prayer events.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like CDM to go and bring another politician to a prayer event. I heard about what John Edwards said last year. What do pundits and politicians like this have to do with prayer?

CDM must be giddy as a jaybird about the election.

RC said...

anonymous,

You really have nothing to fear from posting your name. I disagree with Larry all the time and he has never been condesending. If I were you I would reread your post as ask yourself if it were written with a Crist like tone. It might have been. I cannot judge what someone write, but it comes across are someting written in anger. If I am wrong let me know.

attwireless3@gmail.com said...

JESUS wes a positive person. I agree RC, you cannot do much if people believe you are all about anger.
Booker for President. Maybe he will be the one to solve some of our social problems.

Michael Davis said...

I've been following him for some time. Cory Booker is amazing. He has overcome long odds to be Mayor of Newark. Watch the movie 'Street Fight' which is about his first Mayoral Campaign - you'll see what I mean.

Larry James said...

Anonymous 9:47, thanks for your post. Sorry that my note on Mr. Booker upset you.

You ask an important question, "What do pundits and politicians have to do with prayer?"

You may not agree, but I think a person such as Corey Booker has a lot to do with prayer, compassion and addressing the needs of millions of people in this country. Booker is a person of deep faith and spirituality, which explains his fundamental motive for being in public service.

Across the years we've enjoyed hearing a number of political leaders including President Bush, Mayor Wilson Goode (Philadelphia) and Senator Edwards. All were very spirtual in their personal worldviews, all were avowedly men of prayer. All were very glad to be with us for our event.

As to CDM and the elections, as you are well aware, CDM takes no position on elections or the political process. While we do attempt to educate people about the realities facing low-income people, we endorse no candidtes in any elections.

One last note, RC is correct. No one need fear using his/her real name at this site. We are eager to hear and learn from everyone, even when we don't agree.

RC said...

I know this is an old post but I reread what I wrote and boy did I need to proof read! Ouch! I really do know a bit of correct English. I will do better next time.

Allen Gillespie said...

Wished I had swung by the other day when this was posted. I saw Corey on Oprah the other day. I was blown away. Yes, the living in the projects is incredible, but he also has a great story about befriending two youths who were spray painting "kill corey booker". Amazing man!

Leaving privilege for living among the "least of these".
Showing compassion on those who want to "kill" him - and befriend them. Easily liked by people who are different than him- people are drawn to him.
Sounds like another person I read about.

brian said...

We have some members from Newark which is only 11 miles away. We have prayed for Mayor Booker, partially because he has to have higher personal security than other mayors because of his intentions to be tough on crime as well. Neat guy.

Energeia said...

I am proud to have Mr. Booker as the mayor of my city, Newark NJ. A little research into his upbringing and personal experiences will bring you to the conclusion that his whole life has been shaped and prepared to lead a city like mine, one that is in great need, but also has great potential to be a leading urban city.

Mr. Booker has been criticized many times as being an idealist and somewhat naive in believing he could revive a city like ours. As a child, I was always captivated by lives of idealists like Mahatmah Ghandi and Nelson Mandela (read a lot and widely for my age) and when I recently learned that these men's lives (along with other greats like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) have actually been influences and forces that have shaped his choice to tap into spiritual power for leadership, I was hardly surprised.

He is a man who has clearly responded to a calling, not one driven by a political agenda. As a matter of fact, Mr. Booker has been quoted to have initially hated politics, viewed it as a dirty game he didn't want to get involved with. But destiny does have a way of putting you in the right places and circumstances at the right time, something sometimes we almost have no control over. While working as a tenants-rights lawyer (always has been an activist in the community), the people he was representing urged him to run for office as councilman of the central ward. That started him on the road to politics, realizing it was the most effective way he could make a difference.

I believe that a large part of every human being's satisfaction can come from answering that "call" to be whoever our creator intended. Cory definitely has had many other "high and lofty" choices and opportunities handed to him that would absolutely complement his education, brilliance and charisma, but he has turned them down knowing he is within God's will and has been prepared all his life to be who he is today. For example, did you know that one of the offers he recieved after he lost the 2002 race to Sharpe James was his own national t.v. show? Media attention was extreme because somehow this loss revealed more positive things about him, and these events might as well have swelled his head and made him think who he is, or worst of all, missed his track, so to say. Thank God for the advise of those close to him to stay focused on what was important, to shun media attention that may have turned him into their puppet, and to think of things to come. I am glad he spent the next four years preparing for another campaign. So sacrifices like living at Brick Towers (though I am a Newark resident, I couldn't imagine it) walking sixteen flights of stairs when the elevators didn't work, lacking heat and hot water could only be borne by a person who knows better.

Today, as the whole country knows, he moved to the south ward of Newark, to another troubled neighborhood. His goal is to make a difference wherever he lives. Please continue to pray for divine protection for this young man, because he is dealing with tough issues in a tough city. Pray for strength and encouragement, wisdom and understanding to be his and to surround him. He is learning the ropes, and we desire his success.

God bless Cory Booker and the city of Newark NJ. Peace be within our borders!

Anonymous said...

i first learned of cory booker from essence magazine. i became interested in him because he is handsome and educated. he presented himself in the magazine as an eligible bachelor and there was an e-mail address in place to pursure him if interested. i began some research on him and not everything was great, but, you can't believe everything you read so i tried calling his office several times and e-mailing him. many articles talk of his affluent upbringing and that he has this ability to treat everyone with decency and make them feel important. well, i never got any response from him and just like poor people are supposed to be ignorant; i made the mistake of believing his upbringing meant he had class. i would have respected this guy if he had told me to fuck off, but, no response at all????!!!yeah, he sure treated me with decency and i don't need anyone to make me feel important because i already am. nicole sounding off