‘The root of who we are’

Cory Booker delivers keynote address at chamber brreakfast

Christine Harkinson/The Sun
In his keynote address, Booker discussed a variety of issues and his ‘road trip’ visits to the area.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker delivered the keynote address at a Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey breakfast last month.

“Sen. Booker has brought an innovative and consensus-building approach to tackling some of the most difficult problems faced in New Jersey, which is one of the many reasons the South Jersey Chamber is proud to call him not just our distinguished senator, but also a friend,” said Christina Renna, president and CEO of the chamber, in her opening remarks.

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Booker’s 2023 Jersey Summer Road Trip included stops in Burlington; Salem; Gloucester; and Atlantic counties, where he visited the Coombs Sod Farm in Elmer. He also saw the Clayton Fire House, the Veterans of Foreign Affairs in Somers Point and Warren County College.

“It’s gatherings like this that are so much a part of the root of who we are as a nation,” he said at the breakfast.

Booker grew up in northern New Jersey and received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Stanford University, where he played varsity football, volunteered for the campus peer-counseling center and wrote for the student newspaper. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to study at the University of Oxford in England, and then attended Yale Law School.

“I did my graduate work at Stanford studying a guy named Booker T. Washington, and he’s this extraordinary man,” Booker noted. “He’s really kind of misunderstood in my opinion, but he was so about creating networks of entrepreneurs, of business people, to grow strength and expand opportunity.”

“This was his mission in understanding that in this nation, this free democracy, this multicultural idea that we had to make sure that we were making the kind of cross connections to grow and expand opportunity,” the senator continued. “And for me, that’s what this is. This chamber is really about that ideal.”

According to its site, the chamber is a member-driven organization that advocates for economic prosperity by uniting business and community leaders to build sustainable, professional relationships.

“There’s this competition in humanity, and I think of it in this way: There’s the people who believe in ‘us versus them’ and there are the people who believe in ‘just us,’” Booker explained. “I’m on the ‘just us’ team. I think that when we create more networks, more connections, when we pull people out of isolation and make them a part of a more beloved community, that we all do better.”

“That’s what the chamber really, to me, is about.”

Booker was mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013 and under his leadership, crime declined, affordable housing and green spaces expanded, city services were made more efficient and educational opportunities increased. In his last year as mayor, he won a special election to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, and in November of 2014, he was reelected to a full six-year term.

He sits on the Senate’s judiciary, Foreign Relations, Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Small Business committees.

“It is not ‘us versus them’; it’s not this group of Americans against that group of (Americans),” Booker maintained. “We’ve got to stop that nonsense. We all do better when we all do better … “

Before ending the event with questions from the audience, Booker offered his closing remarks.

“ … We are a radical idea that we will take people from all over the planet Earth and say that we are a nation that will be strong by taking all of humanity, just us, and make our allegiance not to a king, but to an ideal of freedom, of justice, of honor and grace,” he noted.

“ … The cause of our country now more than ever is to create community, to create networks, to bring sectors together so that we can lead humanity into a free, more noble, more just future.”

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