America is a great nation that has seen many dispiriting and disastrous periods, but we should all strive to create a fairer and more just country for all individuals, Booker said.
He described the struggle of his parents in the late 1960s to purchase a home in New Jersey. Realtors attempted to block the family's efforts, arguing that allowing an African American family to move into a New Jersey neighborhood would destroy the place. His family, with the help of young activist lawyers, was eventually able to move into the New Jersey town. "As our father affectionately called us, the four raisins in a tub of vanilla ice cream," Booker noted.
"And this is how I grew up - in an affluent, at that time, all white town in northern New Jersey," Booker said. "And I sat around a table where pictures of Thurgood Marshall were apparent in my house. Where the poetry of Langston Hughes filled my ears as bedtime stories, where busts of presidents like John F. Kennedy sat there watching me eat my eggs in the morning.
"But yet my parents made it very clear to my brother and me every single day - you did not get here on your own," Booker continued. "'All the privilege that you have young man was paid for by someone else, you drink deeply from wells of freedom and liberty that you did not dig. You eat lavishly from banquet tables that were prepared for you by your ancestors. You have an obligation; you have a burden - a righteous, glorious burden, because this nation is not finished. We have so much work to do. So this was the charge of my brothers and my life.'"
Mayor Booker said that the more he ventured out into the world, the more he realized his parents were right.
"That we were living in a world that has come so far, but yet is still is so short of what we say to our kids - like a chorus to our conscience in schools from east to west - stand up and declare that we are one nation .... " He continued, "But that we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all -- for all. But I could take you to classrooms no less than five miles apart and you could see that is just not true yet."
Booker urged the gathering of law students, lawyers, activists, academics and others in the grand ballroom of Washington's Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, to not lose hope and to strive to achieve equality for all.
Watch Booker's entire speech below.
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