U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a Neighbor, ‘Drops In’ at Virtual Convo


Photo by Kitta MacPherson

U.S. Senator Cory Booker joined a Zoom call at St. Benedict’s today to participate in a virtual version of Convo. For several weeks, due to quarantine regulations tied to the global pandemic, the morning gathering has been virtual.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker spoke at virtual Convo this morning, addressing the importance of love and caring for one’s neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This is a test,” said Sen. Booker, a Newark resident who has attended Convo periodically, especially when he was Newark’s Mayor from 2006 to 2013. “Don’t think you have to solve the world’s problems. The question will always be: ‘What are you doing in the name of love in this moment?’”

Sen. Booker, the first African American U.S. Senator from New Jersey, recalled a moment from 2012 when, while still mayor, Hurricane Sandy hit Newark and the region with deadly force. U.S. President Barack Obama had just phoned him to offer aid. So had then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Just then, Booker spotted an elderly man standing in the middle of a city street near a downed power line. The man was waving lights so no drivers would strike the line and hurt themselves or his neighbors.

“I had just talked to the President of the United States and the Governor,” Sen. Booker said. “And here was this man, standing in a storm, in a crisis, showing the strength of Jesus who said ‘love thy neighbor.’ To me, he was the most impressive person I talked to in those 20 minutes.”

The school has staged virtual Convo via a Zoom teleconferencing app since the morning of Monday, Mar. 16, when the school moved its entire operations to distance learning due to social distancing requirements engendered by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

The Democratic Senator started his dialogue recalling his previous experiences at Convo and encounters with  Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B.

“Fr. Ed,” Sen. Booker said. “You have been such a force in my life — of friendship, of mentorship, especially under my most difficult leadership challenges.” 

This relationship led to Fr. Ed inviting Sen. Booker last week to speak at Convo for a few words of inspiration during what have been challenging times for so many. 

The renowned Senator’s appearance meant a lot to the students who lead Convo and the student body. “For Sen. Booker to take time out of his busy day to speak his mind to the community…It was not only inspirational but motivational,” said Senior Group Leader Jonathan Oniyama. 

Sen. Booker, who has been at the center of public attention over the last year in his quest for the  Democratic nomination for U.S. President, announced he was ending his run in January. He has since endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sen. Booker told students that they should handle personal tribulations and public trials, such as the pandemic, the same way.

“We are called to bring that energy of love, of warmth,” Sen. Booker said. “That is the challenge, to love in difficult times.”