Caitlin Essig / Asst. multimedia editor
Speaking from first-hand experience, which includes saving his neighbor from a burning building, Mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker offered his thoughts on empowerment and making a difference.
Booker spoke to an audience of almost 300 Ohio State students and community members Tuesday.
Booker’s speech was part of the First-Year Distinguished Speaker series hosted by the offices of Undergraduate Admissions and First Year Experience.
Booker said his message for students was one about power.
“It’s all about understanding that you have the incredible power to make change in your world, and you shouldn’t let anyone take away that power,” Booker said.
In his speech, Booker touched on politics, but focused more on an individual’s importance in the world.
“Never let your inability to do everything undermine your ability to do something,” Booker said. “Life is not about the big act, the big speech, the big election. I know we’re in election season and it’d be nice to think, ‘If you just elect this person the world will change.’ No. The world won’t change unless you do.”
Julie Richardson, the coordinator for the event, said selecting Booker to speak was the right choice.
“He embodies everything we want our first-year speaker to be,” Richardson said. “He’s a young, dynamic leader who can bring inspiration to students and the community.”
Booker has earned media attention recently for helping to save one of his neighbors from her burning home. He was also named one of the most influential people of 2011 by Time Magazine.
Booker’s influence was not lost on some students who attended the speech.
Ally Mooney, a first-year in public affairs, said introducing Booker was “an honor.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a more engaging, humble person,” Mooney said. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget this.”
Booker made an OSU connection when he touched on recent hate crimes on campus.
There have been a string of hate crimes on and off campus that have resulted in hate crime alerts from the university.
Booker said it is important to know the difference between tolerance and love.
“Tolerance is a really cynical state of mind,” Booker said. “I want to move to love.”
Booker said love is important because it requires us to know and understand one another, and it denotes a need for each other.
Caitlynn Cole, a first-year in pre-anthropologic science, said she liked Booker’s point.
“I like that he looks at problems and doesn’t focus on differences between people involved, he focuses on what you have in common,” Cole said.
Mooney said she appreciated Booker’s connection to students.
“With his speech, he took what he was passionate about and connected it to students here,” Mooney said. “He reminded us that we have no boundaries at this university. We have the world at our fingertips.”
Booker spoke about diversity and embracing cultures, sharing with the audience that he studies different religious works such as the Bible, the Quran and the Torah in order to understand people better.
After his speech, Booker embraced everyone who waited to meet him in a line of about 150 people in the lobby of the Drake Performance and Event Center.
The line never moved, but Booker did. He walked toward each person in line with a smile, posing for photographs as he wiped droplets of sweat from his forehead.