US Senator Cory Booker is a politician cut from different cloth. He’s was a Mayor who used twitter.
Cory Booker doesn’t use language the way most politicians do. In an era where the stump speech is most often about fear, and danger, and security - Booker took to the stage in Austin Texas and spoke about what he called "the most powerful force - I think - in the universe, the force that has shaped and guided our country to the moment we are now.” And that force, said Booker -was love.
"I am one of these people that really believes that we are all here today as a physical manifestation of a larger conspiracy of love” Booker told the packed house at the South By Southwest festival."
And then he made the case. "We are a nation that was not founded because we all look alike, spoke the same language or prayed alike."
We are a nation of “ordinary Americans who took extraordinary steps in seeing each other, in valuing each other, in sacrificing for each other, and struggling for each other and that the love of Americans have shown as it's evolved ability to leap space and time, to leap obstacles to span differences.
Booker’s vision resonated through the room in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s dark vision of American Carnage - as gloom was presented at the inauguration in January.
Said Booker: “in fact we know we've had ugly divisions in our country fearsome conflicts but there has been a spirit that has still found a way to to reach beyond that and to manifest a glorious triumphant love.”
And then - he told the story of a previous Inauguration.
"One of my favorite moments in American history is when a president who could have at a time of division and separation in our country when he spoke to the nation — his inaugural address — where he could have a given into a dark vision of our country and it it would’ve been true. He could have all of the accused to the people who were opposing him of of some of the worst of human character. But he chose not to. He said these profound words with malice towards none and charity towards all.”
It was Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
"The moment that bit that inspires me is that he went afterwards to a reception and there was tons of people obviously trying to get at the president… but he kept pressing to find someone who referred to as his friend, and this friend that he was looking for was a black man who almost didn’t even get in because of the powerful, anguished lines of race in America at that time. But Lincoln had a mission he wanted to know something, he wanted to know from this man what we all do when we get up and give speeches or talks 'Hey how did I do?’ And they looked at each other at at and I'm sure there was a pregnant pause as this black man named Frederick Douglass look at the president of United States and simply said mister president it was a sacred effort. a sacred effort."
"I am one of these people that really believes that we are all here today as a physical manifestation of a larger conspiracy of love” said Booker.
But before you think that Booker used Love to ignore the problems of our day. "I believe in many ways the hope of our nation actually does lie with many of our historical figures how they acted in times like this. I'm not one these folks it wants to whitewash our American history and eliminate that the ugliness and the their bigotry and the sexism and the hate that was prevalent in our history. But the power of our history is that despite that we seem to have chosen a harder path way of love, despite the hate and divisiveness of our days."
Booker says our ‘independence’ is actually a declaration of ‘interdependence.’
And - Booker rejected the now accepted concept of our need to have ‘Tolerance’ for one another. "You know I think that this this this is a problematic use of words when Americans appeal to this ideal that we should be a nation tolerance” said Booker.
"I think that's a really problematic, if that is the aspirational ideal of our society. Because it is a rejection of that larger goal that we have, a difficult goal which is to be a nation of love."
"We don't have to like each other, we don't have to agree with each other, but ‘tolerance’ says I'm just gonna stomach your right to be different and if you disappear off the face of the earth, i’m no worse off, or no better off. But love says ‘I see you’ I recognize your dignity, I recognized your value, I recognize your worth, and I know it if we're gonna make it, we have to find a way to exalted that truth within one another and find ways to connect to be together in a larger mission.”
Comparing tolerance to love - Booker built his case.
"A mission larger than solves tolerance build fences between people love rips them down.”
"Tolerance crosses the street when someone else is coming, and love confronts and embraces.”
"Tolerance says I don't need you, love says you are central to my well being.”
And clearly - loving each other means caring for each other. It’s not every man or woman for themselves, it’s us - together - as a community. A nation.
"Tolerant says I don't have to care about what happens to your child. Love understands if your kid gets healthcare and education and thrives and becomes an artist or doctor or entrepreneur or an inventor - that I am so much better off."
And - as SXSW is a technology conference, Booker spoke with reasonable concern about how technology is impacting our social connections.
"I am a big proponent and lover of technology and innovation, I am not a lover of the separations that are becoming easier and more convenient, were we can creating our own virtual bubble around our lives, where we literally are no longer seeing one another, or understanding our need for one another."
"Its becoming even more convenient to have confirmation bias and begin to believe, I am so right and you are so wrong. And not seeing each other creates a very dangerous reality.”
Said Booker - of his vision of love and connectedness - “I see you.”
Indeed, not the kind of political speech you hear everyday.