Obviously he is known for being the Stanford football player, Rhodes Scholar, and Newark mayor who saved women from burning buildings, shoveled his neighbors’ snow, won a $100 million grant from Mark Zuckerburg for education, and lived on a food stamps for a month to prove how hard it is to live in poverty.
However, something I didn’t know is that his first ambition was to run a non-profit straight out of law school. As someone who’s currently running a non-profit, and is really young, it was rewarding at least to feel like I could connect with him at that level. Ultimately, he was pushed into running for city council as local organizers believed that was the best way to use his talents. In my own life I’ve often felt like my experiences through my non-profit in leadership, speaking, writing, organizing, and running a business are all remarkably similar to the underlying passions Booker was nurturing when he wrote his 5-year plan at age 27 of how he envisioned his life going after starting his non-profit. Now, I’ve always been deeply interested in politics, and even now my day job at CNN today is in covering politics. However in running my non-profit and in directing my film, Forgotten Plague, which felt considerably different from actual politics, I knew I was nurturing that underlying raw skill set.
So although I don’t really direct plan to do politics in any true sense for the next few years, I am actually open to the right opportunity should it strike. It’s a less common route, but running a non-profit is certainly a suitable route to going into politics.
More important, though, is a second point gleaned from reading Booker’s book, in that while he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he became obsessed with Mohandas Gandhi, whose autobiography was called The Story of My Experiments With Truth, a book I started reading 7 years ago when I was just 19. Increasingly I’ve been thinking of picking that book up again and Booker’s strong recommendation only adds to that. Booker was impressed at how Gandhi viewed his life as simply a series of experiments, and Booker endeavored to view his time at Oxford and as an early politician similarly: as a series of experiments.
What I like in Gandhi’s politics and in Booker’s politics is that both are based on spiritual love first, that both are communitarian in nature. I wouldn’t want to exercise political power for the pure goal of attaining greater power or feeding my own ambition. I would want to do it out of spirit of love, out of a total fusion of my intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual selves.
I don’t feel I see it in many politicians, but if I was to go into politics, that’s the identity I’d wish to have. So finishing Gandhi’s autobiography may be next on my list.