As one of the Democrats' biggest weeks kicked off in Philadelphia on Monday, the transcript of Cory Booker's Democratic National Convention speech highlighted a set of values that prioritize both inclusion and acceptance. A former vice presidential prospect and a rising star in the party, Booker delivered a thundering oration to the Democratic delegates, asking them to reject Donald Trump's demagoguery and strive not for "tolerance," but for love. In marked contrast to the infighting on display earlier in the day, Booker's speech was optimistic, celebratory, and well-received by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Booker was criticized for allegedly shouting at the 2012 Democratic convention. He certainly raised his voice on Monday, but he balanced out his high-energy delivery with a relentlessly positive tone and message. The New Jersey senator stressed repeatedly that inclusion and acceptance of all people are essential American attributes, and that Hillary Clinton, not Trump, is the candidate who possesses them.
Some compared the address to Barack Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 DNC, which catapulted him into the national spotlight and paved the way for his presidential run four years later. It would be premature to suggest that Booker's speech will have anything close to that level of impact on his own career, but nevertheless, it leaves him very well-positioned if he ever decides to seek higher office.
Here's a transcript of Booker's speech.
Hello, Philadelphia. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Two hundred and forty years ago, our forefathers gathered in this very city and they declared before the world that we would be a free and independent nation. Today, we gather here again in this city, in this city of brotherly love, to reaffirm our values before our nation and the whole world.
Our purpose is not like theirs, to start a great nation, but to ensure that we continue in the best of our traditions, and with humble homage to generations of patriots before, we put forth two great Americans, our nominees for president and vice president, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.
Now, looking back to our history, looking back to our history, our founding fathers put forth founding documents that were indeed genius. But our founding documents weren't genius because they were perfect. They were saddled with the imperfections and even the bigotry of the past. Native Americans were referred to as savages. Black Americans were fractions of human beings. And women were not mentioned at all.
But those facts and ugly parts of our history don't distract from our nation's greatness. In fact, I believe we are an even greater nation, not because we started perfect, but because every generation has successfully labored to make us a more perfect union.
Generations of heroic Americans have made our nation more inclusive, more expansive, and more just.
Our nation wasn't founded because we all look alike or prayed alike or descended from the same family tree. But our founders, in their genius, in this, the oldest constitutional democracy on the planet Earth, they put forth the idea that all are created equal, that we have inalienable rights.
And I'm so proud that upon this faithful foundation that we built a great nation. And today, no matter who you are — rich or poor, Asian or white, man or woman, gay or straight, any religion or none at all — you are entitled to the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
In this city, our founders put forth a Declaration of Independence, but let me tell you, they also made a historic declaration of interdependence. They knew that if this country was to survive and thrive, we had to make an unusual and extraordinary commitment to each other.
Look, I respect and value the ideals of individualism and self- reliance. But rugged individualism didn't defeat the British. It didn't get us to the moon. It didn't build our nation's highways. Rugged individualism didn't map the human genome. We did that together.
And so this is the high call of patriotism. Patriotism is love of country. But you can't love your country without loving your countrymen and your countrywomen. Now, we don't always have to agree, but we must be there for each other, we must empower each other, we must find the common ground, and we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.
Let me tell you, we cannot devolve into our — to a nation where our highest aspirations are that we just tolerate each other. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love.
That's why that last line in the Declaration of Independence says it so clearly. It says that we must — to make this nation work, we must mutually pledge to each other our lives and our fortunes and our sacred honor. Tolerance is the wrong way. Tolerance says I'm just going to stomach your right to be different, that if you disappear from the face of the Earth, I'm no better or worse off.
But love — love knows that every American has worth and value, that no matter what their background, no matter what their race or religion or sexual orientation, love, love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together, that when we are divided we are weak, we decline, yet when we are united, we are strong, when we are indivisible, we are invincible.
This is the understanding of love that's embodied in one of my favorite savings. It's an African saying, and it says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
This is the reason why I am so motivated in this election, because I believe this election is a referendum on who best embodies the leadership we need to go far together.
Donald Trump is not that leader. We've watched him try to get laughs at other people's expense, try to incite fear at a time we need to inspire courage, try to rise in the polls by dragging our national conversation into the gutter. We've watched him mock, cruelly mock a journalist's disability. We've watched him demean the service of my Senate colleague, saying, “He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured.” Trump said, “I don't like people who get captured.” Would he say that to POWs from World War II? Would he say that to POWs from Vietnam? Would he say that to the brave men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, risking capture or worse? That's not the commander-in-chief.
We've watched Donald Trump paint with a broad, divisive brush, saying that Mexican immigrants who came to build a better life in America are, in his words, “bringing crime, they're bringing drugs.” He called many of them rapists. He said that an Indiana-born federal judge can't be trusted to do his job because of his Mexican ancestry, a statement that his fellow Republicans have described as racist.
We've watched Donald Trump, our children, our daughters, our nieces and grandkids have watched Donald Trump and heard him calling women degrading and demeaning names, “Dog.” “Fat pig.” “Disgusting.” “Animal.” It's a twisted hypocrisy when he treats other women in a manner he would never, ever accept from another man speaking about his daughters or his wife.
In this great nation, where our founders put a fundamental principle forward of religious freedom, he says ban all Muslims, don't let certain people into our America because of how they pray.
Now, I take particular interest in the fact that Trump says he would run our country like he's run his businesses. Well, I'm from Jersey.
And I'm from the great Garden State. And we've seen how he leads in Atlantic City. He got rich while his companies declared multiple bankruptcies. Yet, without remorse, even as people got hurt and lost jobs by his failures, he bragged, and I quote, “The money I took out of there was incredible.”
Yes, he took out a lot of cash, but he stiffed contractors, many of them small businesses, refusing to pay them for the work that they'd done. You know, we in America have seen enough of a handful of people growing rich at the cost of a nation descending into crisis.
America, at our best, we stand up to bullies, and we fight those who seek to demean and degrade other Americans. In times of crisis, we don't abandon our values; we double down on them.
Even amidst the crisis of the Civil War, Lincoln stood up and called out to all of our country, saying, “With malice towards none and charity towards all.” This is our history. This is the history that I was taught.
My parents never wanted my brother and I to get too heady. Gratitude was our gravity. So they never stopped reminding me my brother and I that our blessings sprang from countless ordinary Americans who showed extraordinary acts of kindness, decency and love, people who struggled and sweat and bled for our rights, people who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we all enjoy. I was told that we can't pay those Americans back for their colossal acts of service, but we have an obligation to pay it forward to others through our service and our sacrifice.
I support Hillary Clinton because these are her values, and she has been paying it forward her entire life.
Long before — long before she got in politics, she was in Massachusetts going door-to-door collecting the stories of children with disabilities. In South Carolina, she fought to reform the juvenile justice system so that children wouldn't be thrown in adult prisons. In Alabama, she helped expose the remnants of segregation in schools. In Arkansas, she started a legal aid clinic to make sure poor folks could get their day in court.
She has fought for the people, and she's delivered. That's why we trust her to fight and deliver for us as president.
But let me tell you, we have a presidential nominee in Clinton who knows that, in a time of stunningly wide disparities of wealth in our nation, that America's greatness must not be measured by how many millionaires and billionaires we have, but by how few people we have living in poverty.
Hillary knows that when workers make a fair wage, it doesn't just help their families, it builds a stronger and more durable economy that expands opportunity and makes all of us Americans wealthier.
She knows that in a global knowledge-based economy, the country that out-educates the world will out-earn the world, out-innovate the world, and will lead the world.
She knows that debt-free college is not a gift, it's not charity, it is an investment. It represents the best of our values, the best of our history, and the best of our party, all of our shared ideas and values together.
Hillary Clinton knows that when we have paid family leave that this something that must happen, because when a parent doesn't have to choose between being there for a sick child and paying rent, or when a single mom earns an equal wage for equal work, it empowers the most important building block in all of our nation, and that is the family.
Hillary Clinton knows that security doesn't come from scapegoating other people because of their religion, alienating our allies, stoking fear and pointing fingers. It comes when we band together to face down and defeat our common enemy.
And she knows something that I fight for every day, that our criminal justice system desperately needs reform, that we need to bring back fairness to a system that still, as Professor Bryan Stevenson says, treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.
And she knows that we can be a nation that both believes police officers deserve more respect, they deserve more support, more cooperation and love, and believes that a black 20-something-year-old protestor deserves to be valued, deserves to be held, that they should be listened to with more courageous empathy, and that change is needed in the system.
And Hillary Clinton knows what Donald Trump betrays time and time again in this campaign, 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, together, interdependent, interconnected, with one single interwoven destiny.
When we respect each other, when we stand up for each other, when we work together against our challenges, against our neighbors' challenges, be it a neighbor with a beautiful special needs child or one struggling with the ugly disease of addiction, when we as Americans help them, when we show compassion and grace, when we evidence our truth, that we are the United States of America, one nation, under God, indivisible, that is when we are stronger. That is when we go from an already great America to an even greater America.
Now, let me tell you, let me tell you right now, when Trump spews insulting and demeaning words about our fellow Americans, I think of that poem by Maya Angelou. You all know it. You know how it begins. “You may write me down in history, with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I rise.”
Well, y'all know it. Y'all know it. This — this — this captures our American history. Two hundred forty years ago, an English king said he would crush our rebellion, but Americans from around our nation joined the fight. From Bunker Hill to the Battle of Trenton, they stood, and so many fell, giving their lives in support of our daring declaration that America, we will rise.
This is our history.
This is our history. Escaped slaves, knowing that liberty is not secure for some until it's secure for all, sometimes hungry, often hunted, in dark woods and deep swamps, they looked up to the North Star and said, with a determined whisper, America, we will rise.
Immigrants, immigrants risking their lives in times of sweatshops and child labor, they organized labor unions and devoted themselves to lifting the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, with fiercest of grit, they shouted so all could hear, America, we will rise.
King pointed to the mountaintop, Kennedy pointed to the moon, from Seneca Falls to those who stood at Stonewall Inn, giants before us said in a chorus of conviction, America, we will rise.
My fellow Americans — my fellow Americans, we cannot fall into the complacency or indifference about this election, because still the only thing necessary for evil to be triumphant is for good people to do nothing. You know the saying.
My fellow Americans, we cannot be seduced by cynicism about our politics, because cynicism is a refuge for cowards, and this nation is and must always be the home of the brave.
We are the United States of America. We will not falter or fail. We will not retreat or surrender our values. We will not surrender our ideas. We will not surrender the moral high ground.
Here in Philadelphia, let us declare again that we will be a free people. Free from fear and intimidation. Let us declare, again, that we are a nation of interdependence, and that in America, love always trumps hate.
Let us declare — 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.
God bless America. Let us rise together. God bless America.
It was a humdinger of a speech. Booker didn't get the vice presidential nod this year, but he nevertheless remains one of the most promising and charismatic politicians in the Democratic Party. His address to the DNC this year supports that viewpoint.