Here are my notes from the Cory Booker’s session:
Brief Info on Cory Booker
Mayor of Newark since 2006. Rhodes Scholar. Degrees from Oxford, Yale Law School. Urban reformer. Founded non-profit Newark Now. 1,000,000 people following him on Twitter. Recently entrusted with $100 million donation from Mark Zuckerberg to address education.
Core Points from His Message
“How do you stand up when everything around you is telling you to let go?”
“The challenge of the lesson I’m sharing with you is that I’m still seeking to be a better proponent of it myself. It’s not something I learned at Oxford or Yale, but what I learned from my parents.”
“You will always face in this life outrageous adversaries. People that will try to trip you up. Friends who won’t act in your best interests. You must be the one who regardless of the storm is willing to stand.”
“You drink deeply from wells of freedom and opportunity and dignity that you have but did not dig. You have a choice: are you going to grow dumb, fat, and happy on the basis of other people’s sacrifice and struggle, or stand up and use all your blessings to move forward and serve?”
“My parents exemplified love in action. Unyielding faith, fearless hope.”
“You are a result of a grand conspiracy of love. People stormed beaches in Normandy for you.”
“Many people will try to seduce you into mediocrity. Don’t fall for it. You were born an original, but most die copies.”
“You have access to untold opportunities, but you must claim them. Don’t accept your existence as it is. Rise.”
“We are the result of people who did not see the world as others saw it. In the midst of sweatshops, they saw workers rights. In the midst of slavery, they saw freedom. We are here because of people who had the extraordinary vision and the courage to stand up and do something about it. To me, what you see in the world is less a matter of the facts that are there than more being a reflection of who you are. Your attitude about the world says nothing about the world, but speaks to your character.”
“I’ve found in my journey that I can talk about the world all I want and deplore the darkness and point fingers of blame real easily, but in truth that is nothing but spitting in the wind. The only way to make change in this world is for it to start with yourself. Now I see people every day in my city exhibiting that kind of courage. We as a people, if we live our values, can create radical transformation. Human history is, and American testimony in particular, is a testimony to the achievement of the impossible. But before you tell me what you teach, show me how you live and give.”
“Sometimes you have to fast and pray.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“So now I end with a simple call, that my dad gave me as a boy: Let us now stand up. Let us stand because people stood for us and fought for us and bled for us. Let us stand because … change never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Let us stand because ‘liberty and justice for all’ must be a passion and purpose every day. And if we stand like this, then we will find a way to get to the roof.”
1. I loved his emphasis on character. At the heart of character is not seeing yourself as a victim, but as someone who is proactive — someone who can stand up for change. Hardship and adversity will happen to all of us. You cannot make a difference if you respond to that by blaming others and pointing the finger. You have to respond constructively and take responsibility to continue doing the right thing, in spite of adversity. Sometimes people respond cynically to all the problems they see, and they think they are justified in thinking this way because there is indeed lots of injustice in the world. But in reality, “your attitude about the world says nothing about the world, but speaks to your character.”
2. I also loved the fact he did not just talk about character, but exemplifies it. He has clearly made a massive difference for good in his community and as mayor of Newark.
3. I appreciated his story at the end about the importance of sometimes having to fast and pray. We cannot rely only on your own strength, and that’s not what leadership is about. The tasks are too great, and God honors it when we realize that all strength ultimately comes from him, not ourselves.