Booker checks politics at door for on-campus address

Patrick Svitek, Online Managing Editor

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Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker urged Northwestern students Tuesday night to embrace the “conspiracy of love,” offering a nonpartisan respite from one of the most politically charged times of the year.

“We are here because of the fortitude, fierceness and faith of the people who came before us,” Booker told about 150 students in Cahn Auditorium. “There’s a lot of politics, swirl and noise at the moment, but the question always has to come back to, ‘What am I going to do?'”

Booker acknowledged in his opening statements that College Democrats brought him to campus and he has been “literally forgetting” where he is every day amid a packed schedule stumping for President Barack Obama. But Booker promised to steer clear of the politics of the day.

“No side has a monopoly on ideas,” he said. “It’s not about left or right. It’s not about red or blue. It’s about moving this country forward and the red, white and blue.”

Booker outlined his rise as one of the country’s most high-profile mayors and a Democratic star-in-waiting, starting with his parents’ constant reminders to count his blessings. He said their “conspiracy of love” evokes his father’s blunt advice: “Son, don’t walk around here like you hit a triple. You were born on third base.”

College Democrats co-president Adam Roth praised Booker’s emphasis on pursuing life goals with no-holds-barred ambition.

“One thing I’ve always tried to do is go for the big,” the Weinberg sophomore said when asked about his main takeaway from Booker’s remarks. “Things might not always go perfect, but it’s always easier to try and fail than live with ‘What if?'”

Booker’s hour-long address was punctuated by a lively Q-and-A session during which he appeared to offer post-graduate work in Newark to New Jersey native and Weinberg senior Jill Shah.

Booker made a beeline to Shah the minute the Q-and-A period ended, wading through a growing gaggle of students hoping to shake hands with the political celebrity.

“He said, ‘If you’re interested, give me your notepad,’ and I kind of handed it over, and he spelled his number on it and said, ‘Text me,'” Shah recalled. “It’s a sign that he’s really good about connecting people and really great at kind of making himself accessible to people.”

Shah was not the only NU connection that Booker made. The Web-friendly mayor opened his speech by mentioning that an NU student had tweeted that he could not make the College Democrats event because he had to finish a class assignment.

Booker later made light of students’ workload during midterms season.

“This is dangerous when I get no sleep and I’m running on adrenaline, caffeine and sugar, but I’m sure you guys are doing the same thing,” he said after an off-script moment. “If anybody has an Adderall, push it forward, please.”

“I have a prescription, I swear!” he added as audience laughter grew louder.

During a post-event reception, some students raised the prospect of Booker’s political future — more specifically, whether he will challenge Republican Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race next year.

“Everybody seems to be asking me this question, but I’m going to wait until this campaign comes and goes, and then, you know, I’ll consider it,” Booker told The Daily. “I’ll make a decision.”