Booker urges voters at Dartmouth to ‘fight for something’

  • Democratic presidential contender Cory Booker addresses a candidate cookoff on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, in Orangeburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard) ap — Meg Kinnard

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/21/2019 2:19:25 PM
Modified: 10/21/2019 10:06:09 PM

HANOVER — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is pushing a message of activism and grassroots organizing as part of his presidential campaign.

“I will ask more from you than any president in history,” the 50-year-old candidate said during a campaign stop Sunday evening at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center.

The room, packed with nearly 500 attendees, cheered in response. 

“This is a fight against inaction,” Booker told the crowd. He said he was worried about candidates and voters putting too much focus on tearing each other down and defeating President Donald Trump in next year’s election. Instead, he wants voters to look at the larger picture.

 “We need leaders — plural — fighting for something, not against someone,” Booker said.

That larger picture includes combating climate change, passing gun control laws, ending mass incarceration, and supporting reproductive rights, all of which Booker touched on during his speech.

“It’s not a referendum on one guy in office, it’s a referendum on who we are,” Booker said. He reminded the audience that issues surrounding abortion rights, immigration and gun control existed before Trump took office. 

“The gardens of our democracy have never been free of the weeds of hate,” he said. But, he worried about a growing apathy, or as Booker called it, “the impotency of empathy.” 

Booker, a former mayor of Newark, N.J.,  reminded the crowd of moments in history when grassroots organization has brought about major changes, such as the civil rights movement and women getting the right to vote. In one poignant example, Booker recalled the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, in which poor working conditions resulted in the deaths of 145 factory workers in New York City.

It also heightened awareness about worker safety and spurred action on that front.

“This whole country rose up and changed laws,” Booker said.

On that same front, he also listed off the names of recent mass shootings in Aurora Colo., Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.


“Children are being shot under their desks from Parkland to Newtown and we do nothing,” Booker said.

“We need to reclaim what patriotism is: a love for country. And how can we love our country without having love for our fellow countrymen?”

Booker, who is currently polling under 2% in polls about the crowded Democratic field, said that could change. 

“Someone leading the polls this far out has never won (the general election)” Booker said, reminding potential voters that his campaign does not accept money from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists. In New Hampshire, set between the home states of two front runners, Booker said he is campaigning diligently and he’s hopeful.

“New Hampshire has this great tradition of making choices based on the quality of a candidate,” Booker said, adding that he’s visiting towns all over New Hampshire to connect with potential voters. “I’m not ceding this territory to anybody.”

And it seems his message has resonated with people around New England. 

“He’s just set for me,” said Leah Shipulski, a senior at Mount Holyoke who grew up in Etna and came back with friends to watch Booker speak. “I feel this incredible sense of community and equality and justice.”

John Perez, a Dartmouth alumnus and lecturer at the college, said Booker’s final sentiment — “We will rise” — drew him in. 

“It cuts right to the heart,” Perez said, adding that he’s glad he could see Booker speak in person because his presence is much different on screen. “In person you have a sense of sincerity.”

Booker and three members of his entourage spent Sunday evening at the Hanover home of state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, who has endorsed him, before heading off for a campaign event in Concord with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

Hennessey, who made some vegan muffins, coffee and smoothies for the group before they departed, said Booker’s calls for unity and shared activism are a major reason why she is backing his candidacy.

“What I really thought our nation needed more than anything right now is to be healed as a nation and to bring people together,” Hennessey said. “He’s the one who is not saying negative things about others; he is being positive and thinking about where we can go and what we can do.”

News staff writer John Gregg contributed to this report. Anna Merriman can be reached at

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