When a politician makes the news for good deeds, I take notice. Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, has surprised me—and the rest of the watching world—with behaviors that defy my expectations for politicians. Over the past few years, Booker has:
- cut his salary twice
- lived in one of Newark’s worst housing projects
- lived in one of Newark’s most crime-plagued neighborhoods
- embarked on a 10-day hunger strike to draw attention to drug dealing
- accepted a challenge to live on food stamps for a week
- saved a dog from freezing to death
- invited victims of Superstorm Sandy to rest in his house
- saved a neighbor from her burning home, suffering second-degree burns on his hand
- fixed a broken traffic light
- shoveled residents out of the 2010 post-Christmas blizzard
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? You would think that people would be happy to hear of someone doing something good. Not true. Some people hear the name Cory Booker and cannot help by sigh with disgust and roll their eyes in irritation.
“What’s curious about the criticism is there’s very little substance to it. It’s not based on Booker’s record as mayor or the policies he espouses. Most of his policy stances are conventional liberal ones: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, in favor of raising taxes on the rich and increasing government spending on welfare and infrastructure programs. . . .“What Booker’s critics mainly take issue with are his associations, his persona, and unprovable allegations about his ‘worldview.’”
Booker’s “associations” in question are those who have supported him politically, helped make him a millionaire via his tech start-up, and made him plenty of money for speaking appearances. Now, I’m no political expert, but I do believe these are typical behaviors that most politicians engage in. Ball expounds upon this, reporting that:
“Booker’s allies find it perplexing that normal politician activities, like raising money and being ambitious, are seen as uniquely damning in his case. They insist that he is sincerely motivated by issues of inequality and social justice.”
I do not know what motivates Cory Booker to act the way that he does. I do not fully agree with his policies. But I appreciate his willingness to get involved and give of his time and resources to help anyone in need.
People like Cory Booker hold a mirror to our hearts. Their actions beckon us to act likewise, to put the needs of others ahead of our own. And the discomfort of it can produce an attitude of scoffing.
Cory Booker is certainly not perfect, even with his superhero-like record. But if more politicians—more of us—had his gumption, grace would abound. And that’s something we all need more of.