NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Jersey’s newest US Senator Cory Booker spoke to a crowd of mostly Rutgers students on Tuesday February 18 in Hickman Hall on the Douglass campus.

The event was hosted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers

Senator Booker opened with a 30-minute speech, touching on his early days in politics as a Newark City Councilman, and public war of words with Conan O’Brien.

Booker also spoke of individual grassroots action and how it shapes the political system, recounting several moments from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the struggles he faced early in his political career.

Ultimately, encouraged the youth of today to take action in shaping public policy for the future.

“Change doesn’t come from Washington, change comes to Washington” Booker said.

The senator then opened up the floor for questions from the crowd. Booker fielded questions about gun violence, federal sequestration, mental health, extending unemployment insurance, and recent school closures in the city he once ran, Newark.

Answering a question regarding mental health and gun control, Booker said states need to enforce and expand background check laws.

Booker also lamented the failure of congress to pass stricter gun reforms, but compared it to the struggle to pass the Voting Rights Act, encouraging citizens not to give up the fight.

“It took a lot of tries and a lot of fails… We need a persistent fight to get there,” he said.

Regarding the recent federal government shutdown, Booker pointed to two “functional defects” in the political system: the way that Congressional district lines are drawn, and the influence of money on campaigns.

“They draw these district lines in crazy ways in order to make these district ‘safe’ Republican districts or ‘safe’ Demcoratic districts.”

In closing remarks, Booker recited the final verses of Langston Hughes poem, “Let America be America again.”

Reporter at New Brunswick Today