Booker emphasizes character, worth at Temple graduation commencement

"I say to you, Class of 2018: You are powerful now."

Steve Tawa
May 10, 2018 - 1:01 pm
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker

Steve Tawa-KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Inside the Liacouras Center at Temple University, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, was the commencement speaker for the largest-ever graduating class. 

During the commencement, Booker received an honorary degee.

"I will make John McCain, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Schumer and others call me 'doctor' on the Senate floor,' Booker said.

Then he brought with him a strong reminder for the graduates: "I say to you, Class of 2018L You are powerful now."

Booker says it's been a journey for him to understand power. He became the first African-American senator for New Jersey, after serving as Newark's mayor. He recalls going on a TV program to be featured along with civil rights leader John Lewis, now one of his favorite mentors. 

Cue the announcer, as Booker recalls, "'John Lewis. Hero of the civil rights movement. Standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He literally bled the southern soil red for freedom.' And then, as my beginning: 'Cory Booker, riding his Big Wheel in suburban New Jersey.'"

He says too often, people get caught up in the trappings of power. 

"We confuse celebrity with significance," he said. "We confuse wealth with worth. We confuse charisma with character."

He told grads as they go "charging out in life and fill up their resumes," their power is generated "not by what you do but by who you are."

"It's not about what's going on in the outside world, but what's going on in your heart. What are you chosing to do on a daily basis to manifest your truth?" Booker said.

The student commencement speaker, Paige Hill, quoted from her role model Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

"'If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,'" she said.

And for those who know where they're sitting, Hill said, create space for "someone who might not have the same access, or upbringing, or skin color, or religion or pronouns."

The university conferred degrees to more than 10,000 grads, from age 20 to age 68. They come from 96 countries and 48 states. About 18 percent of the Class of 2018 are from Philly, and 200 grads come from the seven ZIP codes surrounding the main campus.