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Newark City Councilman Cory Booker '97 to Lecture on Monday, September 24, at 4:30 p.m.

Newark City Councilman Cory Booker '97 to Lecture on Monday, September 24, at 4:30 p.m.

Newark City Councilman Cory Booker will relate his experiences in politics when he delivers the 2001 Fowler Harper Lecture on Monday, September 24, 2001. The lecture, "Change and Challenge: Personal Lessons and Urban Effort," will be held in the Yale Law School Auditorium at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

At his graduation from Yale Law School in 1997, Cory Booker sat in the courtyard listening to Professor Drew Days speak about the importance of becoming involved in local government. At the time, he thought it wasn't something he wanted to do--just another well-intentioned commencement address. But just a few years later, he is a member of the Municipal Council in Newark, N.J., and one of the most innovative politicians in America.

Booker gained national attention in 1999 when he fasted and slept in a tent pitched beside one of the most violent, drug-ridden housing projects in Newark. His ploy forced the city into action and drew a greater police presence to the area. He also spent the summer of 2000 in a motor home, and parked it on the most dangerous corners to expose drug trafficking activity. He was named one of the "100 New Democrats to Watch" at the Democratic National Convention that year.

In the lecture, Booker will address what he sees as the most important issues facing the country and talk about "making the promise of America real for all citizens."

While politics wasn't yet on his radar screen at Yale, Booker was deeply involved in the Newark community even before he graduated. In his final year of law school, he decided to live in Newark and commute to YLS for classes--driving up and down I-95 "more times than I care to remember," he says. Booker volunteered with children and served as a tenants' rights advocate in his crime-ridden neighborhood in the city's Central Ward.

After graduation, he worked with grassroots legal advocacy groups and as a public interest attorney. But he quickly observed that the problems he was trying to fight in the community were linked to problems, such as corruption and inertia, in the government. And while he argues that "politics should never be an end in itself," he decided to work through the political process. In 1998, he defeated a long-time incumbent to become the youngest-ever member of the Newark Municipal Council.

Booker's tent-in and adventures in the motor home were motivated by what he saw as "dysfunctional aspects of government that need reform." He is now focused on initiating systemic reform in the Newark government, with the aim of creating a more vibrant and functional organization not dependent on individual charisma. But he continues organizing drives and marches, and maintains that, "My greatest satisfaction comes from being more entrepreneurial in the community."

Booker's history before getting to Yale was almost as eventful as his life since. He was the New Jersey high school football Player of the Year, before going to Stanford on an athletic scholarship. He received a B.A in political science in 1991 and an M.A. in sociology in 1992. He then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received an honors degree in modern history in 1994. While there, he was elected president of a Jewish service and discussion organization, the L'Chaim Society, even though he is a Christian.