Loving, and Losing, With Cory Booker
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because while the presidential candidate lost, Cory Booker may have run the type of campaign America needed in 2020.
By Nick Fouriezos
A U.S. senator from New Jersey and former presidential candidate, Cory Booker sat for a revealing interview with OZY’s CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation.
On running for president
Booker: At the end of the day, one of my colleagues in the Senate said, “You ran the campaign that America needed, even if it’s one that they didn’t want right now.” But I just felt like it’s one of those warrior mind-sets, where you gave everything from your most core, authentic values into a presidential election and you feel good because you just felt a peace about it. Let the universe decide what’s best. And as a guy who has lost elections before, heck, an Oscar-nominated movie about my first loss (while running for mayor) … that then lost in the Oscars to March of the (dagnab) Penguins. But my loss that became that movie, Street Fight, was one of my proudest elections.
On dating Rosario Dawson and Black love
Watson: If you don’t mind me asking, if it’s too much info then hold onto it, but what makes it so special? What makes you guys work so well?
Booker: She’s just a remarkable human being and we have such an alignment of values. We actually had a great long conversation last night about values clarification, things like that … She’s really driven by service and contribution. A lot of people will know her from her movies, but she founded Voto Latino. She is an activist in so many ways. So that’s really good. I think that also we’re both at periods of our lives. She’s about 40, I’m 51 now, where we are, I think — David Brooks wrote this great book called The Second Mountain where he talks about as you go through your life arc, you begin to recognize what’s really important. And having a partner and a friend is something that I think she and I have been without, haven’t made that kind of commitment.
Watson: We’re about the same age, and I think about a lot of people who we know, there are more of us who took longer to get married than in previous generations … Why do you think it’s taken you so long to get to this place?
Booker: I was mayor of my city during its worst economic crisis, then it was the great recession. Newark was coming off of a lot of corruption, a lot of challenges. And so I just had this focus where I was so externally related and I wasn’t recognizing that I would be better if I slowed down and took time for relationships and family. And so that’s why I feel boneheaded in some way, that it took me so long to recognize that actually I could be better in my service, better in my mission and calling in life, if I allowed somebody in. Just open myself up enough to really commit, to deeply commit.
Now the benefit of it is, when I did wake up to it and began to realize it, the universe presented to me Rosario, who really pulled me further into that realization by just calling me out on, I think, a lot of the things I used to do that blocked relationships. And so, I’m a person of faith and it’s like “Amazing Grace.” It’s like, songs like that makes me realize how I’ve been a wretch, and yet God will bless me.
Watson: What’s the most interesting advice you’ve gotten, now that you feel like you’ve found someone special?
Booker: When Rosario and I started talking about living together, I started presenting that question to men that I respect who’ve had successful relationships, or frankly, some that had relationships that didn’t go well. But yet we all know that some of our greatest so-called failures in life are really the greatest blessings of life because we learn from them. I think so much of life is about expanding your ego to be more inclusive of others. And so it’s not letting the small stuff undermine your ability to focus on what’s really important, and just letting go. I think the older I’m getting, the better I am getting at letting go. Physical material stuff, less important to me. But you often find yourself digging in, in relationships over dumb, why am I fighting on this? Just let it go. There’s bigger issues, bigger spiritual connections.
And I talked to a professor … about baby bonds and black wealth inequality. But she wrote a book recently about Black love and Black families, saying a lot of things you are about how we’re getting married later, about the structural assaults on Black families. And she’s just really beautiful in the way that she talked about the fact that we’re not meant to be alone. … So I just have been a lot more thoughtful and a lot more deliberate in my relationship in a way that I’ve never been, and that work and that focus and that release and that openness and unconditional love is already showing me rewards.
On finding his purpose
Booker: I know what the meaning of my life is. … God gave me so many gifts, that story in the Bible of the talents, right? When you have the two people, that Jesus tells a story where they got the talents and they went out to the world and risked them, gambled. The other person who’s buried their talents. I learned from a young child: God has given you talents and privileges. I heard it when I was growing up, my dad’s like, “Boy, don’t you walk around this house like you hit a triple, you were born on third base.” I’m graduating from Stanford, Oxford, Yale. And my dad’s like, “Boy, you got more degrees than the month of July, but you ain’t hot. Life ain’t about the degrees you get, it’s about the service you give.”
Watson: What do you think you would have done professionally, career-wise, if you had lost that second mayoral race?
Booker: I would have stayed in service. You know you don’t have to be in elected office to be in service. One of my favorite other heroes, a woman named Miss Virginia Jones, who was a tenant president of these projects that I was in and lived in for almost a decade. Her son was murdered in the lobby of the building before I moved in … and I remember asking her, “Miss Jones, why do you still live in these buildings? Your son was murdered here.” … And she sticks out her chest, looks at me proudly, and she goes, “Because I’m in charge of Homeland Security,” and she smiled.
She was a woman who did not wait for a presidential appointment, a Cabinet position, a title. She took responsibility for her community and her love, her activism, her grit and guts, did so much for so many in those buildings. … I may have lost being mayor but I would still be in service of my community, maybe as a nonprofit leader or an activist lawyer. … I want to be, as one great person said, thoroughly used up when I die. Thoroughly used up in pursuit of my purpose.