Excerpts from Newark, New Jersey’s Mayor Cory Booker’s commencement address at Stanford University:
My dad would touch me almost like he was trying to feel my very spirit. He would look at me and he would say in ways that are eloquent, he would impart to me this truth, he would say to me, “Boy, you need to understand that who you are now, you are the physical manifestation of a conspiracy of love. That people whose names you don’t even know, who struggled for you, who fought for you, who sweat for you, who volunteered for you – you are here because of them. Do not forget that.”
I’ve come to learn in my life to embrace discomfort because it’s a precondition to service. I’ve come to realize to embrace fear because, if you can move through fear, you find out that fear is a precondition to discovery. I’ve learned in my life to embrace frustration because, when you get really frustrated, that is a precondition to incredible breakthroughs.
I’m telling you right now, courage does not always roar. It’s not when you stand up and beat your chest and you’re ready for the big game, the big fight, the big speech. That is not real courage in my book anymore. It’s not running into a burning building.
Real courage is that when life has beaten you down so low, when you are broken, when you have wounds that you wonder if they could ever heal. Courage is when you’ve done something wrong and you feel the weight of shame on your chest so heavy that you can barely breathe. Courage is when you’re curled up in a ball on your bed sleepless throughout the night and when the sun comes up, courage isn’t the roar, courage is that small voice in your mind that says, get up, get out of bed, put your feet on the floor, brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair – God, if you have it – put your hand on that door knob and go outside for another day of loving and stand with all of your might and look up into the heavens. And courage has you say in a defiant spirit, you can take everything from me, you could cut me deep, you could render me in shame, but you will never, ever, stop me from loving. From loving those who mock me, from loving those who hate me, from loving those who don’t forgive me, from loving the cynics, from loving the darkness so much that I myself, through my small acts of consistent, unyielding love, will bring on the light.
One of my friends who’s an astrophysicist told me that the stars we see at night, millions and millions of light years away, some of them could be gone already but the light and the energy they gave off you can still see it today. Well, that was my grandfather. He loved so much that his love will affect generations yet unborn. He loved so much that he may be gone for a decade from me but I still feel him today in every cool wind that breathes in my face, in every deep breath I take, his love is with me and I hope you feel it today.