I've previously pointed out a couple of people who inspire me as friends. Cory Booker, unfortunately, is not a friend of mine just yet. But he's damn inspiring.
About Cory Booker:
Born in Washington, D.C. Raised in New Jersey. A high school All-American in football and graduated from Stanford (BA in political science, MA in sociology) before becoming a Rhodes Scholar recipient (Oxford graduate) and earning his Law degree from Yale in 1997.
After finishing school, he won an upset victory over a four-time incumbent for a seat on the Newark Municipal Council. Booker immediately established a reputation as being an unusual brand of politician by going on hunger strikes and sleeping in some of the most drug-infested and crime-inflicted parts of the city to draw attention to otherwise overlooked parts of Newark.
An Oscar-nominated documentary, Street Fight, was made of his unsuccessful run for Mayor in 2002 when he was defeated by incumbent Sharpe James...often being told he was "not Black enough" to represent Newark. As is often the case with educated, hardworking people who won't give up...Booker vowed to run for Mayor again, winning with 72 percent of the vote in 2006 and bringing an entirely new set of City Councilmembers into power with him. Booker was seen as such a hard-line crime opponent that the Bloods gang leaders were plotting to assassinate him even before he took office.
Upon approving one of the largest tax increases in the city of Newark's history, Booker expanded the size of the goverment by some 200 employees then promised not to raise taxes on his way to cutting government employee roles back to 50 below the levels he came into office with. Booker's budgeting processes have been lauded for transparency after decades of neglect and mismanagement before him. Booker also brought in a new police chief and was known to patrol the city streets into the late night. March 2010 was the first murder-free month in Newark in 44 years and Newark Police nabbed 11 of the top 12 most wanted felons.
I could go on and on, but you should read the articles, blogs and Wikipedia entries about him yourself. There's a reason why, in 2009, President Obama offered him the job of leading the White House's newly-created Office of Urban Affairs; which Booker turned down to continue serving Newark. He has over a million Twitter followers and he's not afraid to interact with us, nearly 10 times more than New York City's Mike Bloomberg. Booker was one of only two U.S. mayors to finish in the top 10 in the coveted World Mayor prize voting.
Many of you may know of him from his "feud" with Conan O'Brien or his friendship with Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which netted $100 million for Newark public schools, but you should know him because - as The New York Times wrote in this 2006 article after his first election to Mayor in 2006 - he's "On a Path That Could Have No Limits."
There's plenty of inspiration in a man like Cory Booker. I hope to make his acquaintance and thank him one day. Not for being the mayor of a city that I don't live in. No, I'd like to thank him for being the type of boundless, innovative leader that is so desperately needed in both the Black community and in American cities.