I’ve always admired U.S. Senator Cory Booker and I learned so much from listening into a chat he had with Tim Ferris on The Tim Ferriss Show. He spoke about his parents coming from poverty and getting the opportunity to go to school. Then both his parents ended up working at IBM as some of the first Black executives on that team. When they wanted to buy a home, they learned about real estate steering.
Booker said, “So what my parents ended up doing, a group of just – again, Blacks and whites joined together to create a storefront operation called the Fair Housing Council. They would go with Blacks, my parents, and send a white couple right behind them. My parents would look at a house, be told it was sold. The white couple would come and find out the house is still for sale. On this house that my parents fell in love with, 123 Norma Road in Harrington Park, New Jersey, they were told it was sold. The white couple came and found out it was still for sale. The white couple puts a bid on the house, papers are drawn up. On the day of the closing, my father shows up and a volunteer lawyer, a guy named Marty Friedman, a Jewish lawyer who just on his own time wanted to help Black families out. Literally, the real estate agent stands up angrily when he realizes he got caught in a sting operation. He doesn’t relent. He doesn’t say, yeah, I broke the law. No, he punches my Dad’s lawyer in the face.”
The Bookers got the house.
Cory ended up at Stanford where he played football, earned the marks to be a Rhodes Scholar and study in Oxford, and then return home for Yale Law. He was a City Councillor and then the Mayor of Newark. And now he is a U.S. Senator.
When he was a Councillor, he lived in a housing project so he could see first-hand what his constituents were challenged with. He went on a ten-day hunger strike, sleeping in a tent to draw the attention of decision-makers and media and force the City and the landlords to help those living there.
When Tim asked him about being a community activist, Cory said, “Alice Walker says the most common way people give up their power is believing they have none. We all are so much more powerful than we realize. Sometimes if we want to curse the world around us because it’s not kind enough or there’s too much cynicism, nothing is going to change about this world unless we do first. That might just be doing the smallest thing.” His message is do something. Share a message about an issue. Give five dollars to someone who needs it. Help one young person.
He mentioned that when we look up at the stars in the sky, that light takes years to get to us. So those stars may not be there anymore once we see them. But that bright burst of light from long ago lights the way for us now. And we can do that for others. So beautiful.
How can we be a star for someone else? How can we light the way? How can we share a message with our network that will make a difference for someone else? There is no how-to manual on changing the world. But small steps in the direction of being a good human, speaking up for those who can’t and inspiring others to do the same is a place to start.