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Booker Releases Podcast Episode with Inspirational Message for Class of 2018

“Life is not about the degrees you get but about the service you give,” Booker tells grads

June 8, 2018
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today published an episode of his “Lift Every Voice” podcast featuring an inspirational message for the Class of 2018 about how power is far more than the lines on your resume or the title on your business card.

“I want you all…to think about your power in a different way,” Booker tells grads. “And as you strive to put more lines on your resume to realize that that resume will never ever reflect the truth of how powerful you are.”

“And so to the great class of 2018, I say again from where I started you are powerful. Power is not on how physically strong you are, it’s on how morally consistent you are.”

“You are powerful. Power does not come from your title, it comes from you telling your truth – every single day in your smallest of actions – what you decide to do with the dollars you spend, how you notice the dignity of the person on the street, how you give one act of kindness more than you thought [you could].”

“Because today I’m telling you, you are your ancestors wildest dreams. But for the dream to truly be real, for the dream and hope of this country that is in the balance in this moral moment, it’s going to take an awful lot of power. So my hope today is that you leave here and be powerful. Let this world feel you everyday. Walk into every room, go to every place, and embrace the world with your spirit and with your truth and if you do that, if you live that way, if you strut like you are powerful, then I promise you that generations yet unborn will know of your light and your love.”

As an example of the awesome power of kindness and love, Booker recounted the ripple effects of the March on Selma that motivated a young lawyer in northern New Jersey to get involved with his local fair housing council, an organization that would eventually help Booker’s parents overcome housing discrimination to buy a home in the affluent suburb of Bergen County, New Jersey.

“That love on that [Edmund Pettus] bridge, one day people whose names I don’t know, standing up, unleashed that force of love into the world. And it instantaneously jumped one-thousand miles and changed the heart of one man sitting comfortably on a couch in New Jersey, who would then go on…to change generations yet unborn.”

“I would not be here today if it wasn’t for that chain reaction of love, built on one action, on one day, one person to another person. It is a virtuous virus, it’s a cascade of love that we all have the power to do. Never forget that the biggest thing you can do on most every day is often just a small act of kindness, decency, love, and caring.”

The episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and Tidal.

Booker launched the Lift Every Voice podcast earlier this year, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as a way to shine a light on overlooked issues of injustice and inequality and share inspiring stories of change. The podcast features an exclusive recording of the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” performed by the choir at Booker’s church in Newark, the Metropolitan Baptist Church.

selectED EXCERPTS

“I want to encourage everyone to understand on your highest moments in life, it’s so important to let gratitude be your gravity – to let it keep you grounded, to understand that whatever the accomplishment is, you’re not here on your own.”

“I want to impart to you really one conclusion that may be different than what you already have in your mind. The conclusion is very simple: I want to impart to you all that you are powerful. I’ve learned in my life that power has nothing to do with the degrees you hold, or the title you have, power is not measured by position. I want you to understand that you are powerful in a way that one of my favorite authors wrote about when she said the most common way people give up their power is not realizing they have it in the first place. Those words are from Alice Walker who wrote powerfully and movingly and compellingly about what real power is.”

“I want you all hopefully at the end of my remarks to think about your power in a different way. And as you strive to put more lines on your resume to realize that that resume will never ever reflect the truth of how powerful you are. I want you to perhaps do like I do which is to reject the great man theory of history which writes about powerful people in powerful positions with powerful titles that moved our nation forward and to actually remember that this nation was shaped and formed most by the people you’re never going to read about in history books.”



“And so to the great class of 2018, I say again from where I started you are powerful. Power is not on how physically strong you are, it’s on how morally consistent you are.”

“You are powerful. Power does not come from your title, it comes from you telling your truth – every single day in your smallest of actions – what you decide to do with the dollars you spend, how you notice the dignity of the person on the street, how you give one act of kindness more than you thought. 2018 you are powerful. And I am telling you right now, if you show up, if you show up everyday – no matter what’s on the news, no matter what someone in power said – if you show up, and you give a little, care a little, help a little, heal a little, listen a little, love – if you don’t let the darkness of the world snuff out your light, if you don’t let the hatred of another make you cynical and turn your back, if you live a life committed to being powerful on a daily basis, to being powerful hour to hour…with accepting your responsibility, with being an agent, then you will make your ancestors proud.”

“Because today I’m telling you, you are your ancestors wildest dreams. But for the dream to truly be real, for the dream and hope of this country that is in the balance in this moral moment, it’s going to take an awful lot of power. So my hope today is that you leave here and be powerful. Let this world feel you everyday. Walk into every room, go to every place, and embrace the world with your spirit and with your truth and if you do that, if you live that way, if you strut like you are powerful, then I promise you that generations yet unborn will know of your light and your love.”

On the volunteer fair housing lawyers – motivated by what they saw during the March on Selma on the Edmund Pettus bridge – who would eventually help his parents overcome housing discrimination to buy a home in Bergen County, New Jersey:

“They thought to themselves and said why don’t we do the best we can with what we have where we are…and they got on the phone and started calling around and they found this young woman with a small organization called the fair housing council [that needed lawyers].  That was 1965. Four years later they get a case file with two names on it - Carolyn and Cary Booker, my parents.”

“I’ve been thinking these years so often about that moment on your couch when you’re comfortable, that moment in their office. I think about that moment  and how these folks did not allow their inability to do everything to undermine their determination to do something. They didn’t just sit there and look at the powerful people, saying powerful words and surrender their strength. In that one small moment, they understood that to do nothing is not only to surrender your power, but to do nothing is actually to contribute to the very injustices you’re witnessing.”

“That in so many ways, the opposite of justice is not injustice, it’s inaction, it’s apathy, its silence. They understood that it’s not enough to just say, ‘I am not a bigot.’ It’s so important to say, ‘I am an agent of love.’ It’s so important, not just to say, ‘I am not hateful.’ You have to be an agent of love. It’s not enough to say, ‘I am not sexist, I am not homophobic, I am not cruel or mean.’ It must be an activist decision you make – one decision in a world where we are so more intricately interwoven than we know, one decision, by one person, on one day ripples out into community. That patriotism of the people on the [Edmund Pettus] bridge. The love of country which means you love all your country men and women. That love on that [Edmund Pettus] bridge, one day people whose names I don’t know, standing up, unleashed that force of love into the world. And it instantaneously jumped one-thousand miles and changed the heart of one man sitting comfortably on a couch in New Jersey, who would then go on with his patriotism, with his love, with his activism. Small acts [like] volunteering on the weekends – he’d go on to change generations yet unborn.”

“I would not be here today if it wasn’t for that chain reaction of love, built on one action, on one day, one person to another person. It is a virtuous virus, it’s a cascade of love that we all have the power to do. Never forget that the biggest thing you can do on most every day is often just a small act of kindness, decency, love, and caring.”

On Congressman John Lewis:

“This is a hero to me, a giant. The man is so humble. He is just so kind. I now serve with John Lewis and I tell you, every time I’m with him, I’m still overwhelmed. But what’s amazing about him is he’s this teacher to me in what is power. You see, it’s not about his title, it’s not about his position it’s about the truth that he lives every day. I see the way he treats folk they may be Senators or Cabinet Secretaries, but I also see how he treats the folk that serve the food, that clean the hallways. He evidences to me the truth that you should always remember that someone who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter is not a nice person. Life isn’t about collecting complaints or gathering grievances. Another lesson he taught me that I share with you is that you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. He lets me understand what the true definition of patriotism is – it’s not how long you sing the national anthem or the flag pin you might have on or all those symbols of patriotism – he teaches that patriotism means love of country and you cannot love your country unless you love your country men and women. And he shows me that you can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. He shows me that the best language you can speak is not mastery of the English language or speak in another tongue – your first language must always be kindness. So this to me is what power is about.”

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