Cory Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey who is running for president as a Democrat, speaks at the Carrollton Centre Tuesday afternoon about his plan to unite Americans if he is elected president in 2020.
Cory Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey who is running for president as a Democrat, speaks at the Carrollton Centre Tuesday afternoon about his plan to unite Americans if he is elected president in 2020.

April 18, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker blended personal reflection and Bible references in a call-to-arms speech in Carroll in which the Democratic presidential aspirant called for a national healing built on the sorts of values he believes most Americans share.

“I’m running for president because I believe in us,” Booker said Tuesday.

Booker, 49, a U.S. senator from New Jersey with deep family roots in Iowa, in the former eastern Iowa community of Buxton, spent nearly two hours at the Carrollton Center. He delivered a speech, talked with the media and posed for dozens of photos with voters. The senator, a national figure since his early political days as a Newark city councilman, chatted, in some cases for more than 5 minutes at a time, with individuals or couples.

“I’m one of these folks that believes life is about purpose, not position,” he said.

Booker stressed his background as mayor of a rebounding Newark. He sees parallels between that city, which had been left behind, and forlorn parts of rural America. He’s calling for an Eisenhower-scale investment in infrastructure, and proposes “baby bonds,” a program in which every newborn American child gets an interest-bearing investment account of $1,000 with up to $2,000 added from the government annually based on family income. The bonds, Booker says, will not only reduce racial disparity but also boost rural America by making it easier for people to stay in remote places.

“This is a moral moment in our country,” he said.

A former standout football player in high school and at Stanford University, Booker went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and later graduated from Yale Law School. While he values individual achievement, Booker said shared purpose has led to the nation’s greatest accomplishments.

“Rugged individualism didn’t get us to the moon,” he said. “It didn’t defeat the Nazis.”

Booker, a Baptist, referenced the Bible at several points in his Carroll stop. He said the nation is facing a Joseph-in-the-pit moment — a challenge to keep the dream of America alive amid political chaos.

“Metaphorically, a lot of Americans are in a pit right now,” he said.

Garry Puck of Manning asked Booker, who has never been married, about his family life.

“I’m a single guy, but I am in a serious relationship with a woman I very much love, who the media seems to be a little concerned with because she’s got a day job in acting,” Booker said. “But she’s somebody very special and I’m excited about the relationship.”

Booker was referencing his girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, 39, who starred in, among other television and movie productions, “Men In Black 2,” “Rent” and “25th Hour.”

Booker said Dawson “hopefully will become more and more special in my life.”

Pressed by Puck, who noted that Booker, who is African American like former President Barack Obama, could face challenges to his own faith, Booker said, “I am a Christian, sir. I am a Baptist, and I come from a family of Baptist ministers, and a deeply religious family.”

That considered, Booker doesn’t believe there should be a religious test for office.

I would much rather hang out with an nice atheist than a mean Christian any day of the week,” Booker said.