Iowa 2020 Book Club Reviews Cory Booker’s “United”

The first in a series of 2020 candidate book reviews from Iowans, led by IDP Vice Chair Andrea Phillips.

I should have known when I decided to start the 2020 Book Club, where we read the books of the Democratic presidential candidates, there would be a lot of interest — Iowans take their politics and their role in vetting candidates seriously. 550 people joined.

We’re tackling the books in alphabetical order (and yes, every announced candidate has a book), so we started with Senator Cory Booker’s book. The Senator will be joining us online Thursday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m. Central Time to discuss his book. We’d love to have you join us. Mayor Buttigieg, Secretary Castro, Representative Delaney, Senator Gillibrand, Governor Inslee, and Marianne Williamson will also be participating in the later discussions of their respective books.

Here’s a sampling of Iowans’ reactions to Cory Booker’s Book United: Thoughts On Finding Common Ground And Advancing The Common Good.

What did you find inspirational from the candidate’s book/story?

“I found especially meaningful his stories of working with former inmates to get their records expunged. It really brought home to me how hard it is to break cycles of offending.  I also liked reading of his experiences on the show Finding Your Roots. Reading about his heritage made me realize how varied all our backgrounds are. Both these things inspired me to dig deeper in my own life.” Margaret Hamilton, Greene County

“I was inspired by Cory Booker’s ascetic zeal for putting himself in the shoes of others by living their experiences of poverty, by witnessing the heroic efforts of families to survive the modern traumas of addiction and violence…eschewing the comforts of his own advantaged position in order to share with us the stories and wisdom of people confronting the iniquity of inequity.” Abbie Gaffey, Woodbury County.

“There were two inspirational ideas that stood out for me in Senator Booker’s book. First of all, the discussion that he had with his mom, and she asked if he was making his life decisions based on faith or fear. Also, the question that the senator posed, “If you could do anything knowing that you could not fail, what would it be?”  I found it inspirational and refreshing that Senator Booker appears to be a self-reflective person who continues to use these questions to guide his life choices.” Nan Holst, Clinton County

“What inspired me about Cory Booker is his ability to admit his mistakes and weaknesses without letting these negatives affect his overall positive attitude toward life. I also admire him for, as Atticus says in To Kill A Mockingbird (and I paraphrase), putting on the other person’s shoes and walking around in them for a while.” Sandra Oberbroeckling, Story County.

“I found Booker’s insistence on moving to Newark’s Central Ward and getting involved locally to be courageous, given his middle-class, suburban upbringing. Real change takes courage, and I found it inspirational that Booker stuck with his work representing the Central Ward, even though it would have been much easier for him to move elsewhere and not have to deal with the problems of urban violence or youth drug use. He’s showed time and again his willingness to listen to the people and work with them to bring real solutions to issues, while also realizing that he cannot do everything alone. I think he is a great model for how a public servant should work for the people.” Josh Peter, Story County

“Every chapter was a new inspiration. I was especially moved by his fasting & prayer to save the neighborhood. I read it over Purim & this year was a whole new take. Who will be our Esther?” Tracy Smith, Cerro Gordo


How does it seem their upbringing impacted their current worldview and policy priorities?

“To me, it seemed that Booker was raised to be aware of his privilege and that he should use all of the advantages in his life to help others. His parents made very sure he was aware of all of the work they and those before them had to do to give Cory the advantages he enjoyed in life. It seems that Booker still sees the role of a public servant is to be aware of one’s privilege and to be aware of the everyday struggles his constituents deal with.” Holly Herbert, Polk County.

“I believe the experience of his parents purchasing a home influenced his affordable housing thought process. In the search for a new home after a promotion, his parents were steered towards neighborhoods that looked like them by the realtor. They began working with the Fair Housing Council (FHC) and when told a house they were interested in was sold, another couple (white) was brought in to express interest in it. The house was still for sale for that couple. The FHC helped his parents with the purchase of the home. This gave him perspective on how a different zip code could make a huge difference for a family. It also set into motion the thought process that policy and the implementation of policy, could set affordable housing. I had not realized the practical importance of such policies until reading his memoir.” Melissa LN Arey, Johnson County


What policy idea did they seem most passionate about?

“His passion is in uplifting the lives of those who struggle to achieve basic human dignity in having a home, safe community and adequate employment.” Donnita Moeller, Cedar County.

“One thing I loved about the book and the stories he told is that he realizes all of the issues he saw and was helping to alleviate are interconnected. Education, criminal justice, the environment, housing, etc. For me, after listening to him (I listened to the audiobook) it seemed he was passionate about fixing inequity which…is tied to more than just one policy.” Lauren Haugh, Cerro Gordo County.


What do you still want to know about the candidate?

“Booker is a gifted storyteller and able to bring the reader into his story and his experiences. Much of his journey is about social justice issues and reforming social justice systems. I’m curious how he will relate to rural and small town Iowans regarding policy and his vision to unite those who do not share similar experiences to his own.” Amy MA, Fayette County.


Share a favorite quote from the book.

“Tolerance is becoming accustomed to injustice; love is becoming disturbed and activated by another’s adverse condition. Tolerance crosses the street; love confronts. Tolerance builds fences; love opens doors. Tolerance breeds indifference; love demands engagement. Tolerance couldn’t care less; love always cares more.” Abbie Gaffey, Woodbury County.

In reference to environmental health: “We are stealing from the future and calling it profit in the present.” Kate Newey, Dickinson County.


What about this candidate do you think will appeal to caucus goers?

“His speaking ability, eloquence, authenticity and passion for uplifting the nation and uniting people.” Kimberly Graham, Polk County.

“I agree…his passion for uplifting the nation. I viewed this as an inherent positivity…. [H]e always wanted to try to find a solution, view the humanity in people, and work with others to get things done.” Lauren Haugh, Cerro Gordo County.


by Andrea Phillips
Posted 3/27/19

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