“We have an obligation to wake others up so that they can share their light.”
- Mayor Cory Booker
It was a privilege to see and hear Newark, New Jersey Mayor and possible Senatorial candidate Cory Booker speak this week. His topic was education, which is near and dear to his heart, and he began by telling a remarkable story about his parents. Booker’s mother and father were both born into relative poverty in the south, and both benefitted tremendously from other people looking out for them, extended family and community members. His father, who was raised by a single mother, was able to attend college in North Carolina because neighbors came together and took up a collection for his tuition. Ultimately both of his parents received a college education and went on to become successful executives at IBM.
Booker spoke fondly about the example that was set by his parents, including constant reminders from his father that he not “walk around the house like I had just hit a triple. ’You were born on third base!’” This would be followed by the retelling of stories, including how his parents received the support from activists in overcoming housing discrimination in the New Jersey suburb where Booker and his brother were ultimately raised. As a result of this upbringing, he learned to see himself as the beneficiary of what he calls “a conspiracy of love,” a collection of acts of kindness and generosity that sprung from the recognition that “we are all connected.” And it’s precisely that spirit that he has been trying to rekindle in the city of Newark, apparently reflected not only in his political agenda but his remarkable acts of personal service and even heroism – rescuing a woman from a fire at his own risk and shoveling out an elderly man’s driveway after receiving a call for help from a Twitter follower.
Booker certainly has his critics and I do not pretend to think that he is above any kind of reproach, but his inheritance seems clear in his storytelling and presence. ”I would not be here today if it were not for a conspiracy of love.” ”Each child we let slip through our hands is a loss of infinite potential.” Clearly we do lose the light of children, neighbors, other species, and parts of ourselves when we ignore the call to be fellow conspirators in this fundamental endeavor, to remember that and act as if we are in this together, inextricably linked.
I thank Mayor Booker for his example and for his heartfelt and uplifting reminder that we wake up ourselves and one another to the call of our joined destiny.