U.S. Sen. Cory Booker urged Princeton University graduates Monday to recognize that they are powerful.
“I’ve learned in my life that power has nothing to do about the degrees you hold, or the title you
have. Power is not measured by position,” Booker said. “I want you to understand that you’re powerful in a way that one of my favorite authors wrote about when she said the most common way people give up their power is not realizing they have it in the first place.”
Booker, addressing graduates at Class Day, the annual ceremony planned by the senior class, was quoting from Alice Walker. He went on to tell students that power does not come from the achievements that one puts on a resume.
“That resume will never ever reflect the truth of how powerful you are. I want you to, perhaps, do like I do, which is to reject the ‘great man’ theory of history, which writes about powerful people in powerful positions with powerful titles that moved our nation forward, and to actually remember that this nation was shaped and formed most by the people you’re never going to read about in history books,” he said.
After talking about his parents, he lifted up Congressman John Lewis as a role model because of the way he observed Lewis treating cafeteria workers, janitors and others with kindness and respect.
“Never forget that the biggest thing you can do on most every day is often just a small act of kindness, decency, love, and caring,” Booker said. “Power is not on how physically strong you are. Its on how morally consistent you are. Power does not come from your title, it comes from you telling your truth every single day in your smallest of actions. What you decide to do with the dollars you spend. How you noticed the dignity of the person on the street. How you give one act of kindness more than you thought.”
Booker told graduates if they show up every day and try to make a difference they will shape future generations. “If you show up and you give a little, care a little, help a little, heal a little, listen a little, love a little every single day — if you don’t let the darkness of the world snuff out your light — if you don’t let the hatred of another make you cynical and turn your back, if you live a life committed to being powerful on a daily basis, to being powerful hour to hour
with accepting your responsibility, with being an agent, then you will make your ancestors
He did not discuss the current political climate in the U.S., but did say the country is at a critical juncture. “For the dream to truly be real, for the dream and hope of this country that is in the balance in this moral moment, it’s going to take an awful lot of power,” he said.