Last night Altschul Auditorium seemed somewhat empty, with just minutes left before the event was scheduled to start. No more than half of the auditorium seats were filled; a major surprise considering the large space and huge name that would soon be speaking. Those who were there, however, were treated to an earth-shaking oratory experience from Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ. This program was brought to campus by the Kenneth Cole Community Engagement Program. Bwog’s Mayor Meister Zachary Hendrickson was there to enjoy it.
Dean Martinez started the night off with a brief introduction for Kenneth Cole. For some reason, Kenneth Cole and Mayor Booker decided to slip in during the first few sentences of Martinez’s introduction. I almost didn’t notice them sneak in from the opposite side of the stage. Martinez continued on, highlighting Cole’s work in AIDS advocacy and youth empowerment.
Kenneth Cole was next at the podium. After a brief bit of background information and some light-hearted clothes puns, he introduced us to the man we’d all been waiting to see. Cole exclaims, “He tweets faster than a speeding bullet, shovels snow faster than a locomotive, and jumps into a burning building in a single bound!”(Literally, he did that.) Needless to say, huge applause followed.
Mayor Booker immediately let us know that he was sorry for the short amount of time he had to meet with us – he had to leave directly after for an interview with Piers Morgan. He also wasted no time in getting everyone laughing. The first thing he said was, “For anyone trying to record this, I’m sorry. I’m going to be running up and down with this mic like Oprah!” Next, Booker asked for someone to turn the lights up. Obviously easier said than done, we spent the next few moments in a room that was darker than it was before. This also garnered some laughs.
After this brief detour, however, Mayor Booker assumed a more serious tone. Three specific motifs appeared throughout the course of the speech. First, Booker discussed the importance of giving back and advancing the needs of humanity. “Patriotism is not just about wearing flag pins and saluting,” he asserted. Second, Mayor Booker continuously made references to his Christian faith. Third, there was a strong emphasis on the power of individuals as members of a community. He referenced everything from Khan Academy to charter school to an elderly man who used his 2008 stimulus check to purchase a lawn mower and clean up a vacant lot that had been housing drug dealers. For every point he made there was some community hero Booker had met who could exemplify it. (I’ll also take this moment to let you know that Mayor Booker’s address was so full of quotable moments that I literally couldn’t keep up. If I were to write up every moment that caused my spirit to soar, then this post would be even longer than the abrasive length it is right now.)