Government shutdown. Health care crisis. Mounds of debt. Consistent arguing, name-calling and foot stomping. Ugh, we get it already; the government isn’t necessarily living up to it’s end of the bargain lately. In fact, most of us dread taking in the days headlines for fear of more bad news or increased disappointment in our elected officials. Just when we are beginning to lose faith in the system or those we have chosen as our political voices, Newark Mayor and New Jersey Senator-elect Cory Booker steps up to the proverbial podium to inspire. True to form, Booker reminded us that true leadership is built on a foundation of kindness and a strong belief in the people you serve when he presided over nine seperate unions in celebration of the legalization of same sex marriage in New Jersey yesterday.
Booker has served as Mayor of Newark for over seven years and has been know for his hands on approach, work ethic and approachable nature. During his stint as Mayor he has gained nearly 1.5 million twitter followers with whom he consistently interacts, regularly discussing the issues at hand with the citizens he serves and granting interviews for term papers. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is hard to argue that Mr. Booker’s leadership style is rooted in anything less than public service and upholding it’s sanctity. Newark’s beloved mayor has famously participated in a ten day hunger strike in an effort to bring to light the dangers of open-air drug dealing, raised awareness of food insecurity by living on a food stamp budget, rescued a citizen from a house fire at his own risk and even shoveled a constituents driveway upon request while helping another propose to his girlfriend. Booker was also no less than a first responder during Hurricane Sandy, working around the clock to help rebuild all that was lost and welcoming victims into his own home. Over the past seven years, Mayor Booker has, time and time again, reminded us what true leadership is and the positivity and productivity that comes from selfless devotion to office.
You may wonder if there is anything New Jersey’s latest pick for Senate hasn’t done during his time as mayor. While his list of credits is long enough to make me wonder if he is some superhuman hybrid of Mother Theresa and Batman, Booker has, in fact, never presided over a wedding. Naturally, we may assume he doesn’t have time to assist with the exchange of vows and rings but, we would be wrong. As mayor, he received numerous requests to officiate weddings in Newark but, turned down the offer each time as a way of “protesting the painful reality that I could not marry all citizens equally,” a promise he made when he was first elected.
“I made a decision when I became mayor that, for the last almost seven and a half years, I wasn’t going to marry anybody until I could marry everybody.”
Lucky for the devoted Newark leader, New Jersey legalized same sex marriage as the last bit of mayoral sand was slipping through his hourglass. As a result, Newark Mayor and New Jersey Senator-elect Cory Booker experienced what he called one of the “deepest honors of his life” as he officiated weddings for seven same sex couples and two heterosexual couples in the rotunda of City Hall at 12:01am on October 21, 2013.
I doubt anyone would have thought twice if Newark’s mayor had simply made a public announcement, expressing his gratitude to lawmakers and passing along congratulations to the citizens of the city. Brides and grooms would have likely thought it exceptional had their Mayor shown up to City Hall to extend well wishes to those getting married on this monumental day. Yet, for Booker, none of that would do. In one of his last duties as Mayor of Newark, he displays the same passion and commitment that he has for over seven years and, in doing so, reminds an entire nation the type of leadership we should strive to elect.
Booker was eloquent and heartfelt as he began the ceremony saying, “Tonight, we have crossed a barrier. While you all have fallen in love, the state of New Jersey has risen to love.” As the clock ticked past midnight, he officiated his first marriage between two 65 year old men, Joseph Panessidi and Orville Bell, in front of over 200 friends, family members and equal rights activists. As he united a couple who had been together for 15 years he declared, “By the power vested in me, thank God by the state of New Jersey- it’s about time!- I declare Joseph and Orville to be lawful spouses in the state of New Jersey.”
On an emotional night for all, Booker remained the dedicated leader he has been, most likely all his life. In keeping with the theme during his term, he showed us all, during a time when we may have needed it the most, that dedication to people, sincere kindness and a passion for public service naturally breed the type of leadership that we can be proud of, regardless of our political affiliations.
After his duties as officiate were complete, Mayor Booker served cake and offered a toast to all who had participated in the historic occasion. As he lifted a glass he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by saying, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and proclaimed that the day honored “justice, righteousness, equality and most of all, love.” Later, when asked if he will work to expand equal rights and same sex marriage in the Senate he responded without hesitation, “Absolutely.”
New Jersey, you’ve come up victorious as of late and I congratulate you on the grand and historic accomplishment of legalizing same sex marriage. You definitely got it right when you elected Cory Booker to the Senate. He is definitely the man for the job, no matter what that job may be. Mr, Booker, we thank you for your selfless service and admirable leadership.
Feature Image via New York Daily News