Newsflash! Tomorrow is Election Day in New Jersey. Before we headed to the polls we caught up with US Senate Candidate and Newark Mayor Cory Booker to hear his stance on topics we’re thinking about (how to get the kids to play more outside, school lunches, etc.) plus- his go-to spot when he’s back in Bergen.
What skills do you think kids will need to survive in society in 10 or 20 years from now?
Mindfulness. Helping kids to be in the present moment. We are actually teaching kids meditation in some of the Newark schools right now. It’s amazing the feedback the teachers are giving me on that. Their achievements in school, ability to deal with difficult situations, and number of fights going down. The ravages of stress are very difficult and we all have busier lives. I want to see more and more kids get power over their lives by developing their minds and bodies. And success in life is measured by how happy one is, not by how much money someone has.
What are your thoughts on social media and it’s place in kids lives and teenager’s lives?
My brother and I were just talking about how lucky we were to grow up right before the Internet explosion. More than ever parents have to be engaged in their kids use of social media platforms. Parents should have passwords and be able to look on their accounts. They should be able to govern their behavior. They can actually catch behavior and have teaching moments by watching them online. There should also be more engagement from parents in having our kids not be “screen addictive” and really getting them out there and connected to the earth and nature and to exercise. We shouldn’t just “poopoo” it though, because the technology also offers tremendous opportunities to parents as well. Like gaming technology to help kids better understand math concepts from a very early age. I’m very big on public/private partnerships and I’ve gotten a lot of companies, like IBM, to help us in our Newark schools to use and integrate technology in a useful fashion.
What are your fondest memories of Bergen County? When you come back to Bergen, where do you have to go?
For the first 22 years of my life, Bergen was my home. This was my childhood and my early adult years. It’s a place that I feel this profound gratitude to in ways that I can’t even express. My parents had to fight a legal battle to be the first black family to integrate into Harrington Park. Back then realtors wouldn’t show black families homes. So a group of people formed the Bergen County Fair Housing Council and set up a sting operation to enable them to buy a house. So we moved in under a cloud of controversy. But from the day we moved in, the town wrapped around us and gave us the most nurturing, loving experience, the neighbors. So, I just have this love for the town. So even when I was excelling in school and on the football field, my dad used to say to me, “Son, don’t walk around this house like you hit a triple, you were born on third base”. Meaning, you have no idea the privilege you have, and you have an obligation to do something with those blessings. And so when I go back there, I go back and see my friends. Just see the people I still love and who are still such a part of my life.
If you were a dad, how would you get your kids outside to play?
My parents got my brother and I involved in all sorts of activities. I can remember taking Judo classes in Harrington Park, my parents taking me to sports classes, we had a great block and played outside, we built forts, played and the older kids watched the younger kids. Michelle Obama picked me as a co-chair for her Partnership for a Healthier America to get kids moving. In Newark we’ve built out public playspaces, that were well lit to get kids outside more often. We’ve created farmers markets, have kids taking exercise breaks in the middle of class, because just getting up and moving, actually stimulates brain function.