Just before the deadline of Oct. 11, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker visited Eastern Michigan University on Monday, Oct. 10 to encourage voter registration.
The Student Center auditorium was packed with nearly all of the 250 seats filled. This event and Mae C. Jemison's visit to EMU's campus both had the same purpose of getting more voters to register for the upcoming presidential election.
“What a luxury it is to say ‘oh I’m just not going to vote. What difference does it make in my life?'" Booker said. “The most perverse type of privilege, the most dangerous type of privilege, is that there’s a serious problem out there but because it doesn’t affect you personally, it’s not your problem.”
Sen. Gary Peters and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, both representing Michigan, and Michigan congresswoman Debbie Dingell were the first to present.
Danai Gurira, who plays the character of Michonne in AMC’s horror drama “The Walking Dead” also spoke at the event.
“You know generally people talk about the character I play on TV,” She said. “They talk about her being a warrior, about wielding a sword and being really strong and formidable and agile and smart, all those things but honestly? She ain’t got nothing on Secretary Clinton.”
The Clinton Campaign is what all the presenters came to support along with their general message to vote. Last week Mae C. Jemison also came to EMU to support Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
The EMU Student Government occupied the front row of the auditorium throughout the presentation. Tanasia Morton, student body president at EMU, introduced Sen. Booker to the stage.
After thanking his fellow senators Sen. Booker spoke of his initial journey into politics and what he called a "gentle" approach to explaining his support for Hillary Clinton.
“Across the street [from my home] is Integrity House, they have a facility there for drug treatment,” said Sen. Booker. “I walk out of my house everyday and I see a sense of urgency of folks who can’t afford to wait and they look at me…so I go down to Washington with a sense of urgency all the time.”
He said he got to know Hillary Clinton on a personal level when he traveled with her during this year's primary election. The experience he had watching Clinton, he said, made him soften.
“I realized this wasn’t an intellectual decision for me, it’s a decision of my spirit, which I’m much more comfortable when my heart, head and spirit align.”
Sen. Booker’s full support for Hillary Clinton solidified during a trip to a diner while on the road with her.
“The server comes up and you can tell she’s nervous,” Sen. Booker said. “I could just see the gentility in which the secretary began to talk to her and took her from being nervous to just being in the space, in the moment and calm.”
Despite his support for Clinton’s presidential run, Booker said that’s not his mission.
“This is where my heart is set tonight and I really want to rally you up and get you all excited about her but that’s not my mission tonight,” He said. “My mission is to get all of you to think about yourselves and what I can do in the cause of my country.”
Throughout his speech, Sen. Booker reminisced about his meetings with John Lewis, tracking down the lawyers that helped his family get home at the height of civil rights struggles as well as his father’s stories. He spoke about the death of his father and an encouragement to stay faithful in America.
“I’m telling you right now we’ve come this far with faith. Faith in this nation even if it wasn’t true, faith in each other even when we faced betrayal. We didn’t give up and we didn’t wait for change to come from Washington.”
His final words were a call to action.
“In a democracy the most fundamental expression of love—patriotism is love of country—[you] can’t love your country unless you love people. The most fundamental expression of that love is to vote.”
Among audience members was Robin D. Stephens, an attorney for the Washtenaw County public defenders offices. She said she came mostly to see Sen. Booker.
“I thought the entire presentation was great, all of the speakers were very good,” Stephens said, “but I also believe that Mr. Booker brought it all home with his presentation, how he made us all understand that as a community we have to be responsible for everyone.”
Children’s literature major Megan Jones was also impressed by Sen. Booker’s presentation.
“I thought [the presentation] was amazing and phenomenal I thought everyone was so well spoke and articulate," Jones said. "Mr. Booker had me honestly laughing, crying, feeling his words with my very soul. I was in awe.”
Cory Booker played varsity football at Stanford University where he earned his undergraduate degree. He received the Rhodes scholarship and went on to get an honors degree in History at Oxford and his J.D. at Yale. He served on the Newark city council before becoming mayor in 2006. He became a senator for New Jersey in 2013 via a special election and was reelected to serve a full six-year term in 2014.