Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Street-fighter

In this month's Esquire, Scott Raab provides a fascinating profile of Newark Mayor, Cory Booker's, fight to retake his city. It's just the latest test for Booker who, up until this point, has compiled an amazing track record. At Stanford University, he was an all-American tight-end on the varsity football team and class president. In his "spare time", he ran a crisis hotline and organized programs for area children. While studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he ran a mentoring program for low-income youth. He was also President of the L'Chaim Society, a Jewish group, to signify his commitment to end tensions between Jews and African Americans. While earning his law degree at Yale, he co-founded and operated free legal clinics to help low-income residents of New Haven. Upon earning his degree, he served as Staff Attorney for the Urban Justice Center in New York and Program Coordinator of the Newark Youth Project. During his first election to become a Newark councilman, he upset a four-term incumbent by knocking on tens of thousands of doors and inspiring over a thousand previously discouraged voters to turn out for the first time. Since 1998, even after he was elected mayor, he has lived amongst the people - first, in a notorious public housing project in Newark's Central Ward (where he organized tenants to fight for improved conditions) and then in a three-story rental on Newark's south side, an area described as "a drug- and gang-plagued neighborhood of boarded-up houses and empty lots. The sky is the future for this 39 year-old.

An excerpt from the Esquire article:

The battle for America's soul isn't in Baghdad. It's right here at home, in a place forsaken long ago and ruled by depravity and despair. Then Cory Booker came to raise a city from the dead... "Before they came after me in 2002," he says, "they offered me every job imaginable. McGreevey offered me Secretary of State, Secretary of Commerce, or Secretary of Labor. They said, 'The county bosses will give you the line for the Essex County Executive - you'll be the first black county executive' - all that kind of stuff." His voice goes from matter-of-fact to plummy with passion in a heartbeat. "These people don't understand what this is about. This is not about a position - it's about a mission, and a city that should be so much further along than it is."

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