Cory Booker on Principles & Values



Raised in only black family in segregated neighborhood

My father began searching for homes and found that real estate agents kept directing him to the same few neighborhoods in Bergen County that had significant black populations. This injustice angered both of my parents, and they sought legal help. They were referred to the Fair Housing Council. With the council involved, they began to see homes in predominantly white towns around Bergen County.

For the houses that my parents did like, they would be told that the homes had already been sold. So the Fair Housing Council decided to begin to send out white "test couples" to see if indeed the homes were sold or off the market. They weren't.

[Their lawyer], having been part of sting operations like this before, informed the real estate agent that he was in violation of NJ state law and his real estate license was at risk. The Bookers, he explained, would be purchasing the home. We moved into Harrington Park and became four raisins in a tub of sweet vanilla ice cream.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 18-20 , Feb 16, 2016

After law school, worked with non-profits for city kids

At Stanford, my goals were similar to those I had in high school: play varsity, get A's, and be deeply involved in public service. College led to a master's degree, which led to a Rhodes Scholarship, which led to law school. Every step of the way, I had whiteboards up in my bedroom or dorm room with my goals written out. I woke up and went to bed determined and focused. There is a blessing, a gift in knowing where you are going and what your goals are, to have a feeling every morning that you are waking up with a definiteness of purpose.

Yet in my first year of law school, my bright vision for the future suddenly went dark. My experiences working with kids, engaging with nonprofits, and serving in cities had sparked a powerful drive to dedicate myself to working in these areas.

I couldn't articulate exactly what I intended to do about them. I was ambition without focus; I had passion to make a difference but no plan for how to do so.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 23 , Feb 16, 2016

Father raised in 1930s colored funeral home

My father was raised in the funeral home business. He had been born in 1936 to a single mother with health problems so severe, she couldn't care for him. In the earliest years of his life, he was cared for primarily by his elderly grandmother, but when it became clear that even she could no longer provide for him, they gave him up to live with James and Eva Pilgrim. Eva was an elementary school teacher, and James owned a local funeral home. Pilgrim's Funeral Home was known back then as the colored funeral home, because white funeral homes didn't tend to black bodies.

My father taught me early in my life that attitude is a conscious choice; it is a currency available even to those with no access to money. If the world punches you in the gut, that doesn't define you; it's what you do next that speaks your truth. My father's truth was relentless positivity.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 87-8 , Feb 16, 2016

First African-American senator from New Jersey

Democrat Cory Booker was sworn into the Senate on Thursday, becoming the first African-American senator from New Jersey and the first African-American elected to the Senate since Illinois sent Barack Obama to Congress in 2004. New Jersey is now the first state to be represented by a black senator and a Latino senator--Sen. Robert Menendez is Cuban-American--at the same time. Slightly more than 42 percent of New Jersey's population is black and Latino.

"That's kind of incredible," Booker said. "New Jersey is a special kind of place." Booker said that to New Jersey's credit, race was never an issue in his campaign.

Booker will serve out the remainder of the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg's term, which ends in January 2015. Booker will serve on three Senate committees: Commerce, Science and Transportation; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Environment and Public Works. Two of his assignments--commerce and environment--also were committee assignments for Lautenberg.

Source: TheDailyJournal.com coverage of 2014 New Jersey Senate race , Oct 31, 2013

Money to cities is ok: we're one state with one destiny

Lonegan said, "You may not be able to swim in the Passaic river, but it's probably because of all the bodies floating around of shooting victims in your city."

"Oh my God," Booker said.

In another exchange, Lonegan said the state has poured countless dollars "into a big black hole in Newark."

Booker called Lonegan's tone "insulting" and, in a theme he repeated throughout the debate, said Lonegan needed to stop "talking down to New Jersey's cities."

"We're one state with one destiny," Booker said

Source: Newark Star-Ledger coverage of 2013 N.J. Senate debate , Oct 9, 2013

Vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker, but over-eater

Booker doesn't drink, let alone smoke. Vegetarian overeating is his only vice, and he fights a constant battle with his weight. After a long day, he says, his bad habit would be to turn on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, eat a whole pizza, "and then do some ice cream." With encouragement from his Twitter friends, he lost 30 pounds in early 2011, only to gain them back with interest. This summer, he tipped the scales at 309 before being horrified by news photographs of his own jowly face--and receiving stern advice from his friend Mike Bloomberg to "cut it out." Since then, he has dropped 40 pounds, with the goal of losing 30 more.

Source: Vogue magazine profile, "Local Hero Cory Booker" , Dec 19, 2012

Grew up in Harrington Park; commuted from Newark to Yale

In 1996 a former Rhodes Scholar and Yale law student named Cory Booker decided to move to Newark. Booker, who had grown up 20 miles north of Newark in Harrington Park, NJ, missed living in NJ and wanted to go home, even though his parents were now splitting their time between Washington DC and Atlanta. Booker planned on pursuing a career in public service (though not politics), so Newark was an attractive city. He soon found lodging in a rooming house and began commuting from Newark to New Haven to complete law school. He also started participating in a tenants' law clinic.
Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p. 50 , May 7, 2012

Won with rainbow coalition, but softest support among blacks

Mayoral election returns from Newark's recent mayoral election reflect predictions of what happens when moderate and more civil rights-oriented or militant black candidates face each other in congressional elections. [Pundits] predicted that the moderate black candidate would win a majority of the nonblack vote & split the black vote, thereby creating enough of a rainbow coalition to win. This strategy clearly did not work for Booker in 2002, when he did not win enough of Newark's large black electorate to win. By 2006, however, Booker had become enough of a known player in Newark politics that he was able to attract enough black support to be able to win the election decisively.

Larger questions loomed for the Booker administration. His support was the softest in the city's black sections, particularly in middle-class black areas with ties to the old black political establishment. Would Booker be able to maintain his coalition, or would small slights cause black voters to withdraw their support?

Source: The New Black Politician, by Andra Gillespie, p.101 , May 7, 2012

I believe in Newark as the city of opportunity

342 years ago, Puritans came ashore onto the banks of the Passaic River, searching for freedom and the promised land, they looked at the wild woods and uncultivated lands here and said, "I believe in the infinite strength of God's children, I believe in Newark." When waves of immigrants poured into our City from across the globe, yearning to be free, with worn hands that would build this City, they said in countless foreign languages, "I believe this is the city of opportunity, I believe in Newark."
Source: 2008 State of the City Address , Feb 1, 2008

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Bill de Blasio (D,NYC)
Rahm Emanuel (D,Chicago)
Bob Filner (D,San Diego)
Steven Fulop (D,Jersey City)
Eric Garcetti (D,Los Angeles)
Mike Rawlings (D,Dallas)
Marty Walsh (D,Boston)

Former Mayors:
Rocky Anderson (I,Salt Lake City)
Tom Barrett (D,Milwaukee,WI)
Mike Bloomberg (I,New York City)
Cory Booker (D,Newark,NJ)
Jerry Brown (D,Oakland,CA)
Julian Castro (D,San Antonio,TX)
Rudy Giuliani (R,New York City)
Phil Gordon (D,Phoenix)
Tom Menino (D,Boston)
Dennis Kucinch (D,Cleveland,OH)
Michael Nutter (D,Philadelphia)
Sarah Palin (R,Wasilla,AK)
Annise Parker (D,Houston)
Jerry Sanders (R,San Diego)
Antonio Villaraigosa (D,Los Angeles)
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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2017