I am going to attempt a post on each of the speakers and honorees scheduled for this year’s graduation ceremonies. It’s a somewhat selfish endeavor in that it’s a good way for me to find out more about them before I arrive for the ceremonies. And what a truly special weekend it promises to be. There isn’t one guest I don’t look forward to hearing. I’ll begin today, with Commencement speaker, Cory Booker.

The school announcement introduces him as “the Honorable Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey.” Born in 1969, he was an All-American football player in high school (in Jersey) and a Varsity player at Stanford where he earned a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in sociology. After earning a Rhodes Scholarship, he went on to Oxford, and from there, earned his law degree at Yale.

After some very helpful leads from Booker fan, Jeff Z (and Google, of course) I found much, much more. From Mother Jones (Nov. 2010), we learn of his fervent belief in “the power of small daily acts of love and kindness”, of his stint on the Newark City Council, during which he lived (for eight years) in a “troubled public housing complex”. We read of his bitter 2002 loss to the longtime mayoral incumbent, Sharpe James, whom he eventually beat in 2006, in an election so controversial it was documented in an Academy Awards nominated film called Street Fight. (James was later convicted of five counts of fraud by a federal jury.) Booker’s mayorship has been credited with significantly reducing crime and recidivism, slashing the budget before the recession hit, and inspiring Mark Zuckerberg to donate 100 million dollars to the Newark educational system.

There’s more. Bill Moyers, calls him a “shining star reformer”. From the many NY Times articles, there is one devoted to his personal, and ongoing mentoring of “the boys”, three young men who’ve all had previous brushes with the law. From Time, we hear how he made headlines last winter by using Twitter as a public service tool, guiding efforts to bring help to snowbound citizens. Showing up on doorsteps with his own shovel, he inspired Twitter feeds like “I have a snowpocalypse crush on @Cory Booker“, and “superhero with a shovel“.

Having never heard Booker speak, I linked to the 2010 commencement speech he gave at Pitzer, thinking I’d catch a few minutes of it just to get an idea. I not only watched the whole thing, but have been thinking about parts of it ever since. Booker is one accomplished and charismatic guy, and I am very pleased that I will be on campus to hear him.

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