Little Village is posting videos of all 19 speeches made by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, so readers can hear each candidate in his or her own words.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was the first 2020 candidate to speak at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration, and at the beginning of his speech, he acknowledged the obvious.
“We have a lot — a lot — of presidential candidates here this afternoon,” Booker said. He then pivoted to a theme he includes in all his speeches.
“But our strength as a party comes from the grassroots,” Booker told the audience in Cedar Rapids. “Our party does not need a savior, we need each other. We need to deepen our bonds, we need to organize, we need to build community strength.”
It’s something that Booker spoke about at length during his appearance on Political Party Live in Iowa City the night before the Hall of Fame celebration.
“At length” is important when it comes to Booker. He is one of those rare politicians who is more interesting and whose message becomes more compelling the longer he speaks. Like all of the 19 candidates at the Hall of Fame celebration, Booker only had five minutes to speak. During the PPL recording, the average length of Booker’s answers during most of the interview was just over five minutes.
In his Hall of Fame speech, Booker didn’t include any of the details he had in those long answers, nor discuss any of his policy proposals — such as issuing bonds to newborns to address wealth inequality or his plan for a national gun licensing system — and instead stuck to general themes.
Booker also didn’t include any of his own story at the Hall of Fame.
During PPL, Booker explained that in the 1960s, his parents, who were among the first black executives at IBM, were only able to buy a house in Harrington Park, New Jersey, because a white couple agreed to pretend to be them throughout the purchasing process.
Booker was a star football player in high school, and went to Stanford on a football scholarship. After Stanford, he attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship before studying at Yale Law School.
With degrees from three elite universities, Booker could have pursued any number of career paths, but he said during PPL that a question from his mother set him on the path to politics: “Tell me what you would do in your life, if you knew you couldn’t fail.”
“I said, if couldn’t fail, I’d move the toughest neighborhood I could find in New Jersey and start serving as a lawyer,” Booker explained. “I still live there, because faithful people told me, ‘If we elect you, don’t leave us.’”
That sense of importance of community is why Booker stresses it’s not about what he will do as a politician, but what Americans can accomplish together.
“This election is not a referendum on one person and one office,” Booker said in Cedar Rapids. “It’s a referendum on who we are, and who we must to each other and for each other.”