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United summary

Cory Booker

Thoughts on finding common ground and advancing the common good

4.6 (12 ratings)
25 mins
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    Understanding that we’re all connected is the first step toward finding common ground.

    New Jersey state senator Cory Booker had spent his whole life identifying as a black American man. That’s why he was so surprised to learn about his mixed heritage.

    As is the case when most of us delve into our backgrounds, research into Booker’s family tree revealed a complex web of genetics. He’s the descendant of slaves and slave owners, of Native Americans and of a white man who fought in the Creek War of 1836, pushing Native Americans from their land. In other words, his ancestors quite literally fought each other.

    Using DNA results, Booker found and met a white man to whom he never would have guessed he was related, but with whom he actually shared a great-grandfather. The day Booker shook this man’s hand, something his parents had told him in childhood really clicked: Making the world a better place begins with setting aside whatever differences we may think divide us. To find common ground, we have to understand that we’re all connected. 

    Booker’s parents, Carolyn and Cary, made sure to teach their sons this lesson – because without the help of a Jewish lawyer named Arthur Lesemann, the whole family’s lives would have turned out very differently. 

    What happened was that when Booker’s parents first moved to New Jersey, they were continually barred from purchasing a home in the all-white neighborhood they wanted to live in, even though this was technically illegal. The Bookers would view a house, make an offer, and then be told it had been sold or taken off the market. 

    Luckily, Arthur Lesemann, inspired by the historic march on Selma, had begun volunteering at the Fair Housing Council. Lesemann believed that we all share a common destiny. With his legal help, the Bookers successfully conducted a sting operation. They sent a white couple to a house the Bookers had tried to purchase. When the white couple put in an offer and it was accepted, Arthur and Cary confronted the real estate agent. They had evidence that he was in violation of New Jersey state law, which put his real estate license at risk. The next day, the house was theirs. 

    As a child, Cory Booker was frequently reminded that many of the opportunities he benefited from were the result of people working across their differences to make the world a better place. It’s a lesson he never forgot. 

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    What is United about?

    United (2016) is the inspirational story of state senator Cory Booker’s lifetime spent fighting for the common good. From Ivy League classrooms to the roughest neighborhoods in Newark, New Jersey, Booker examines the big issues America faces up close. These blinks explore the depth and impact of these problems, and call on each one of us to work together in finding common ground. 

    Best quote from United

    Actions, small and large, radiate out into eternity. What we do or fail to do – to one another, for one another, or with one another – leaves a lasting imprint beyond what we can imagine.

    —Cory Booker
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    Who should read United?

    • Anyone interested in US-American politics
    • People who are passionate about criminal justice reform
    • Everyone from New Jersey

    About the Author

    Cory Booker is a New Jersey state senator and was a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential race. Booker is a graduate of Stanford and a Rhodes Scholar, and holds a law degree from Yale. Before being elected to the state senate, he served as a councilman for and then mayor of Newark. According to the Wall Street Journal, Booker is just the twenty-first person to move directly from being a mayor to being a senator. 

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