University | 7:12 pm | May 23, 2013 | By Cynthia Hua

Class Day address echoes Booker’s past speeches

Newark Mayor Cory Booker LAW '97 urged seniors to remember the importance of kindness, gratitude and optimism in his Sunday Class Day address.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker LAW '97 urged seniors to remember the importance of kindness, gratitude and optimism in his Sunday Class Day address. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

Yale’s class of 2013 may be less impressed by Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s LAW ’97 Class Day speech upon finding that his anecdotes have already been circulated around other universities and were previously available online.

In addition to Yale, Booker, who has announced he will run for the United States Senate in 2014, is delivering commencement addresses at schools including Howard University School of Law, Washington University, Cornell University, New Jersey City University and Rutgers College of Nursing this month.

Booker’s speech to Washington University on May 17 followed almost the exact same narrative as the class day speech he delivered at Yale two days later. In both addresses, Booker emphasized the significance of vision through two main anecdotes that constituted most of the speech— the first about Booker’s last minute attempt to board a flight and the second about his reaction to a murder on Court Street during his first days as mayor in Newark. Booker framed both speeches by discussing his relation to his family members and concluded by stressing the importance of small acts of kindness.

The speeches also used a similar opening, one which is familiar from his 2012 address at Stanford’s commencement. In his appearances at WashU, Stanford and Yale, Booker joked that he was admitted to Stanford as an undergraduate due to his 4.0 and 1600, as in “4.0 yards per carry and 1600 receiving yards” on the football field. A joke in the Stanford speech regarding his father’s constant disapproval of him — “you got more degrees than the month of July but you ain’t hot” — is also recycled in both the WashU and Yale addresses, along with several other jokes.

According to The Star Ledger, Booker told graduates at New Jersey City University on May 14, “I see that you are more beautiful than you realize, stronger than you know, more powerful than you could imagine.” The line was repeated word for word a week later at Yale.

Booker’s office in Newark did not respond to request for comment Thursday. Class Day Co-Chair Jonny Barclay ’13 declined to comment, and Jonathan Edwards College Master Penelope Laurans, who serves as administrative liaison to the Class Day co-chairs, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Financial disclosure forms from Booker’s office show he has received around $1.3 million from over 90 paid speeches since 2008, the Star-Ledger reported on May 18. His many speaking engagements have earned him a reputation among some in Newark as an “absentee mayor,” according to the Star-Ledger. A 2012 review by the newspaper found he was out of town at least 21 percent of the time.

Yale does not provide Class Day speakers with monetary compensation.

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