By Hailey Hensley and Shaun Chornobroff
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker touched on a number of local and nationwide talking points in an occasionally comedic, yet serious discussion with students, faculty and alumni when he spoke to a virtual audience of more than 150 people at a March 30 Rebovich Institute event.
Booker opened the event with a number of jokes, followed by a passionate message about the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s resiliency.
“A lot of people not only have lost loved ones but also have lost their livelihoods. Our economy is still hurting. There are still many people in our state across this nation, who are deeply food insecure. And it’s times like this in the darkness of the challenges that I’ve always seen the best of New Jersey,” Booker said.
Booker, a Democrat and the first-ever Black senator to represent New Jersey, opened up on the attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the emotions that flowed through him on the historic day.
“I think this is one of the more shameful moments in American history that I was alive to watch…it was deeply hurtful to me. I still remember escaping off the Senate floor with some of my colleagues and seeing the indignity of watching the world’s most deliberative body, the American seat of power, forced to flee,” he said.
Booker came to prevalence within the political landscape in 2006 when he was elected as the mayor of Newark and gave a passionate answer when questioned about lead polluting the city’s water.
“This is something that this country could decide to do something about, but we haven’t shown that the moral will to make them invest the money in America, to make sure no town, no school, no home has lead service pipes, that you can remove them all for a very finite number,” he said.
The first question the senator was asked was about a controversial bill passed in Georgia that has been criticized for limiting citizen voting rights.
“There have been about 36 documented cases of in-person voter fraud, out of over a billion votes cast, you’re more likely to be hit by lightning twice than to encounter the kind of fraud that they’re [conservative lawmakers] alleging that they need to protect folks somehow from,” said Booker, who was first elected to the Senate in 2013.
Booker’s most passionate moment of the night came after a brief exchange in Spanish with junior accounting major Sleyker Tarifa, who asked Booker in English about how he would protect students like him who benefit from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policies.
“I find it stunning that my nation that professes these values would ever allow a person like you, an American like you, to be deported from this country,” Booker said. “You want to talk about shameful. That would be a self-inflicted wound because ‘Dreamers’ bring hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity every year. They are first responders. They serve in our military, they educate our children.”
The Rider News Executive Editor Stephen Neukam introduced Booker during the event and did not take part in the writing and editing of this story.
Caption: Booker went over issues relevant to New Jersey residents, such as the Newark water crisis and voting rights.
Caption: Booker is the first Black senator to represent New Jersey, and has been a staunch Democrat his entire political career.