The importance of citizen activism and Ohio voters in the upcoming election were the central issues of Sen. Cory Booker’s speech to students at the Ohio Union on Wednesday afternoon. The Democratic junior senator from New Jersey was campaigning for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who is currently running for one of Ohio’s seats in the U.S. Senate.
Strickland, who is currently behind incumbent Sen. Rob Portman in the polls, spoke briefly to students and community members about the importance of a senator who supports comprehensive health insurance and accepts human-caused climate change as fact. He also spoke of the importance of the rising cost of college.
“Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come together and they have decided that they are going to push forward a program, so that any family that earns less than $125,000 a year, their sons and daughters can go to our public institutions, tuition free,” he said.
He said the plan, which he supports, would cover about 80 percent of Ohio families. Strickland called Booker someone who could hold higher office in the future. Booker was allegedly on the list of potential running mates with current Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton.
Booker began his speech by saying that Strickland is a public servant for whom he has a tremendous amount of respect and reverence.
“If you want to know about somebody who has spent their entire life fighting for issues that matter, not just to the wealthy — that really moves me.”
Booker went on to speak about his parents and his childhood. He said his parents impressed on him the importance of ordinary American’s fighting for a better country every day. When he was at Stanford University, his father told him that since their family had benefited from the activism of others, it was critical that Booker fight for others, he said.
“It was not a president or senator, it was ordinary Americans who came out and said ‘We’re going to change this,’” he said.
Booker also spoke about the importance of the upcoming election. He said he does not understand people who do not feel engaged in it, because it will determine the futures of those in poverty, in the criminal justice system, those without healthcare and those who cannot afford higher education. He added that voters in Ohio have a tremendous amount of power at the ballot box.
“If Secretary Clinton wins Ohio, the election is done. If Gov. Strickland wins, we have control of the Senate, and get to set the agenda,” he said. “There are marginalized folks who are not enjoying the promise of the dream of America, who are looking to this state, and somebody in this state is going to stay home. (The voters) have the destiny of this nation in their hands, and they are going to stay home.”
Booker also spoke about the Strickland’s current race against Portman.
“I look at a guy like (Strickland), and I ask, ‘Why isn’t this guy being elevated by 90 percent of the population?,’” Booker said.
Booker criticized the campaign run against Strickland, which has included millions of dollars in television commercials that were funded by groups not from Ohio, notably super PACs.
Ben Schroer, a first-year in business, said he attended the Booker event after seeing the senator’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, which he called “fascinating.”
“He is one of the most articulate, awesome speakers I have ever seen,” Schroer said.
Schroer added a Democratic-controlled Senate is crucial in the next term, because it’s important to him that the Democrats control at least one chamber of Congress.
Madeline Morycz, the secretary of OSU College Democrats and a second-year in public affairs, said she thinks it’s very important that the country not only elect a Democratic president, but also Democratic candidates down the ballot, so that legislation can be passed.
“I thought it would be exciting to see Cory Booker speak, because he’s a charismatic guy,” Morycz said. “I thought it was great, I thought it was a very moving speech.”
The African American Voices Gospel Choir sang a “jazzy” rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Clinton. Booker, along with Strickland and students, then joined in.
Booker closed his speech by talking about the importance of love and understanding. He said, in his view, love is more than tolerating those who are different from yourself, but appreciating them. He said small acts of kindness and appreciation are more important than the grand gestures.
“The small things matter,” he said. “In this nation right now, which is on the precipice, at a crossroads of where we are going to go, not just left or right, it’s about forward or back … Why are we letting people who say mean, awful, hatefully-bigoted things make us mean. What somebody says defines them, how you respond defines you.”