Data News Weekly Contributor
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., encouraged New Orleans Public School children to stand up for what they believe is right when he delivered keynote remarks at the Project LIVE & Achieve Rally on Jan. 18, 2019. Along with U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, the Congressmen, invited by InspireNOLA Charter Schools, addressed over 5000 students for the annual event that coincides with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and encourages non-violence, community engagement, and academic achievements. As the first African-American U.S. Senator elected from New Jersey, Booker spoke on staying true to his background, his morals, and taking action to fight injustices in this nation.
“I would leave this job tomorrow, if it meant violating my core values,” Booker told a smaller group of honor students just before his address at Xavier University’s Convocation Center. He shared with students that he is likely the only United States Senator to currently live in an inner city. The Newark native said that he continues to live in his city’s Central Ward in order to continue to stay humble and gain inspiration from the people right outside his door. This connection with his community allows him to stay committed to addressing the challenges of the people who elected him, even while he represents them in Washington, D.C.
“It’s where you come from that shapes who you are,” said Richmond, echoing Booker’s sentiments about the importance of speaking up for those who he serves as an elected official.
The impact of politics on ordinary people could not be clearer as the government has passed 27 days into the shutdown, Booker said, addressing President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a Southern border wall. Booker urged students not to let the actions of others distract them, but instead to let it further push them to fight for what they believe in.
“The power of the people outweighs those in power,” Booker said.
He encouraged young people to not consider their age, but to get out, and to take action for change that brings equality and justice for everyone in the nation. “I want a reignition of the moral ideals in this country,” Booker said, and he hopes that this generation can end police brutality, racial profiling, and systemic discrimination that contribute to daily injustices for African-Americans. Booker said it was easy to become complacent about injustice, and it is that complacency that allows discrimination to continue. He said he believes that real change can only occur when citizens challenge those who govern to make change.
“Never ever believe your one voice is not enough; no matter who you are, you can make a difference,” said Booker, as he addressed students on the ground level from the main stage.
He evoked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminding students that all of humanity is connected and “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” Booker said quoting King. He told students that just as King’s generation did before, young people are capable of taking action to achieve a more equal and just society. He urged students to get involved today, but on their own terms.
“Never let someone tell you what you should do to make a difference,” Booker said. He then added, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”