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April 1, 2019 - U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) declared, "Change does not come from Washington. It comes to Washington by people who fight for it and struggle for it and organize for it."  "We have got to make this a nation where the dream and the ideals of this country work for every American," Booker said.
Cory Booker—Transcript of Opening Remarks

Hello everybody. Hello. I am so grateful to be here and I want to start with a counterintuitive statement. There is this mistake people make about presidential elections and we've heard it from somebody who I won't mention who says only I can solve all the problems.

We have to remember how change is made. It wasn't a whole bunch of fellows in the early 1900s who gathered together on the Senate floor and said it's about time those women have the right to vote. That's not how it happened. It wasn't Strom Thurmond coming to the Senate floor and saying, "I have seen the light; those Negro people should have some civil rights." 

No. Change does not come from Washington. It comes to Washington by people who fight for it and struggle for it and organize for it.
I began my career in the streets of Newark, New Jersey as a 20-something organizing tenants who often had been, I felt isolated and separated by slumlords who we're not providing safe, decent, sanitary housing and we beat them because the power of the people, the power of the people is always greater than the people in power.

And so, you all are here not because of an individual candidate and this election season can't be just about an individual office. We have to talk about the deeper dissatisfaction in our country because of the anti-democratic forces.

You all are here because I know you join my feeling to be dissatisfied that we live in a nation, as my friend Bryan Stevenson says, that has a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.

You all are dissatisfied like me that we live in a nation where millions of children find it easier to get unleaded gasoline than unleaded water.

You all are like me that you're dissatisfied that in this great nation we have millions of people who work full time jobs, but dignity has been stripped of the work; attacks on unions, and you have more and more Americans now finding themselves with more month at the end of their money than money at the end of their month.

You all are dissatisfied that we live in a nation where the growth of corporate power has gotten so much that they are now finding ways as they have in the past to publicize the costs on society and privatize their profits.

Now everything I just mentioned was going on before Donald Trump was elected. We have to be serious about what's happening. I'm traveling all over the country now and I see from Iowa to South Carolina that it's not just about who's president; state legislators—legislatures are attacking public education, state legislatures, like we see, are attacking the right to organize in states.

This period in American history has to be about more than just one office and one person. It has to be that moral moment in our nation, like the civil rights movement, where we expand the consciousness of our country and return the power in this nation to the people.

And power concedes nothing without a demand. We must organize, we must fight and even after Election Day in 2020, whoever is president, and whoever the Democratic nominee, all of us must line up in solidarity behind them.

And when we when that office back, that office holder must lead the greatest grassroots organizing efforts we ever see to secure in this nation again a country where public education is fully funded; to secure in this nation where we have a criminal justice system that is not known for jailing the mentally ill, jailing the addicted, jailing the poor, but is about restorative justice, about empowering people. We've got to return to a nation where, that favors unions and gives them the power they need to organize and to grow and not shrink and decrease. We need presidents that are areg going to organize for our rural brothers and sisters, living in communities that are being hollowed out and disinvested.

This has got to be a different kind of election because there's too many of our brothers and sisters that are hurting.

I live in an amazing city and an amazing community. I'm proud to be the only one in this election living in a black and brown inner city neighborhood, and right now the median income is below the poverty line. I see my neighbors who work full time jobs but still need food stamps at our local bodega. Shahad Smith, who I lived within the projects for almost 10 years, was murdered with an assault rifle at the top of my block.

I live in a country where black men like me, we're 6% of the nation's population, but we make up over half of all the homicide victims in this country.

We live in a nation right now that if you're born in communities like mine this deck is stacked against you. We have got to make this a nation where the dream and the ideals of this country work for every American, where we live up to our ideals that all men and women are created equal, where the oaths we pledge are not just words from our mouths, but a reality in America, that we are a nation of liberty and justice for all.

And so I'm looking forward to answering your questions but for me, I'm not running for president because of an office or position. For me life is always about purpose and not position.

I got into politics as a central ward councilman because of communities like mine, too many people being left out, too many people being left aside.

We must be about the purpose of this nation, the dream of this country. I am fighting to run for president because I think we can reignite that dream again, bigger than any individual.

And that's where I want to end. I want to challenge everyone and I'm excited about answering your questions but we are, next week, going to be at the 51st anniversary of the slau— of the murder of Martin Luther King in Memphis.

And if you go there to Memphis, Tennessee and you look down right there at the Lorraine Motel, you are going to see words from scripture that are a challenge to future generations. They're the words that Joseph's brothers uttered when they saw him in his coat of many colors, that dream interpreter, and they grabbed him and they threw him into the well to die.

Well, there are many Americans now that feel isolated in a well, feel like the promises of this country ring hollow with their experiences. The question is will we be like Joseph who went from the pit to the palace.

And so right there where Martin Luther King [was] shot, are some words that Joseph's brothers uttered when they saw Joseph in the desert, and the first time I read them I took them as a challenge to us.

Right where King was slain, what are those works?

It says, "Behold, here cometh the dreamer. Let us slay him, and see what becomes of his dream."

What will become of the dream of America? Well I tell you right now it is time for this generation to dream again. It is time for us to reclaim and reinvigorate the dream.

It's time for us to dream again of a nation that every child has a great public school to go to. It's time for us to dream again that every family has health care, that is universal for all. It's time for us to dream again that work has dignity, and all can retire with security. It's time for us to dream again, bold dreams and defiant dreams and daring dreams and the humble dreams of America.

And if we stand together and work together and dream together, I promise you that this election will be more than just taking one person out of office. This will be the beginning of the next era of America, where dreams are not just words or songs, but a reality for all. Thank you.

Joe Mayhew – the Secretary-Treasurer of CWA Local 1103 in Westchester, New York: "...Large individual donations, particularly from the employees of Wall Street and corporate law firms have been a major source of campaign money for you in the past...  If elected president will you support the creation of a small donor public financing system for all, for all federal elections?"

Janeth Caicedo, a member of Make the Road Action and Center for Popular Democracy Action and a community leader and advocate for immigrant rights: "...My concern today is about corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon because they hold too much political and economic power  ...What would you do to challenge monopolies so that we are protected from systemic corporate power that abuses our families and our communities?

Rachel Maiore from Northampton, Massachusetts. Lifelong social justice activist and community health organizer [MoveOn]: on the filibuster.  "We know that these life or death policies will face a 60-vote threshhold in the Senate, a reality that allows for relentless Republican obstruction.  How will you overcome this obstacle to ensure that your bold reforms that you champion can actually become a reality?"

Janeth Caicedo.
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