PHILADELPHIA, PA — July 25, 2016 may as well be the day senator Cory Booker officially announced his bid for president.
In a sweeping 20-minute speech, the freshman senator from New Jersey managed to steal the entire Democratic National Convention. America may know Booker from his popular bid to be mayor of Newark, NJ or his gun-control activism in Congress, but we now know him from the convention speech that reminded us all, exactly, what it means to be American.
Booker started with a fiery history lesson: He re-framed the Declaration of Independence as a declaration of interdependence, and used that as a springboard to preach love and understanding.
"We don't always have to agree, but we must be there for each other," Booker said. "We must empower each other … We cannot devolve into a nation in which our highest aspirations are that we just tolerate one another. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love."
After schooling us on our own history, Booker turned to our future — or more exactly, our future election. He deemed the coming election a "referendum on who best embodies the leadership we need to go far, together."
Donald Trump, he said, is not that candidate.
But instead of simply attacking Trump and building up Hillary Clinton, Booker painted a picture of the striking contrast between them:
"Hillary Clinton knows what Donald Trump portrays time and time again in this campaign," he said. "That we are not a zero-sum nation. It is not you or me; it is not one American against another American. It is you and I, interdependent, interconnected, with one single interwoven destiny."
While throwing Clinton’s name in there, but secretly just crafting his own platform for 2020, he then outlined what this "interwoven destiny" should look like: fair wages, debt-free college tuition, paid family leave, criminal justice system reform, and better understanding between police and the communities they serve.
And then, because Booker gave the greatest speech of the night, he proceeded to quote Maya Angelou's iconic "Still I Rise" poem. Seriously.
"You may write me down in history," he quoted, "with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I'll rise."
This, he told his now-captive audience, describes our history. It describes the spirit of the American revolutionaries; of escaped slaves; of immigrants to America. It describes Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, the women of the Seneca Falls Convention, and the LGBTQ fighters at Stonewall. And it describes us now.
"Here in Philadelphia, let us declare again that we will be a free people — free from fear and intimidation," Booker said. "Let us declare again that we are a nation of interdependence, and that in America, love aways trumps hate. Let us declare so that generations yet unborn can hear us: We are the United States of America. Our best days are ahead of us. And together — with Hillary Clinton as our president — America, we will rise."