Weekend Reading … How an Epiphany affected a (Major) Mayor

The “first pages” are in (meaning the final edits I’m pretty much allowed to do are done) and I went to Montana for a long weekend with friends.  I had never been and almost didn’t go, I have to so much to do, but I am trying to get more balance in my life so I just turned everything in early and kept my plans that had been made in May – planning that far out for me was unheard of.  Wow, they don’t call Montana “Big Sky Country” for nothin’.  I can’t really describe why, but it truly is the biggest sky you’ve ever seen (or at least I’ve ever seen).  So as I was catching up on my reading on the plane and lounging on the trip, I ran across this great article on Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, NJ in the September issue of O Magazine – so quick, we have to read it because the October issue is already out on the shelves!

It was sort of serendipitous that I saw this because Cory’s interview was one of the last interviews I edited in my book so he was on my mind.  I love Cory’s interview for many reasons-one being because I have a very special place in my heart for the people who gave me interviews before I had any idea where this project would go. I had no book deal or a website when these people, like Cory, took their time to share these personal vignettes with me.

Cory is always getting national attention for various reasons – he is cute, single, dynamic, cool, smart, ambitious, funny, hip, down-to-earth, the mayor of one of the toughest cities in the country, he’s been on Conan, Oprah, etc. etc. and is probably one of the greatest orators around right now.  I’m serious.  If you get a chance to hear him speak, especially about something other than politics just so that you can experience it objectively, take it, and I’m not a person who is really that enamored with hearing people speak really.  My impression of him is that he is always paying attention to life in a way that he is always open to growing and sharing.  He also seems to have this quality of respect and awe of people and life that, in my opinion, probably keeps a dynamic person humble and always in certain state of gratitude and wonder.  We met in a Starbucks on the upper Westside in Manhattan to do our interview before an event he had to attend, and he seemed almost embarrassed that his epiphany took place at such a young age (12), as if maybe it didn’t count because of that or maybe it was silly.  But there are many people whose greatest epiphany happened in their youth.  My oldest candidate in the book is 91 and she has had many epiphanies, but the one that she focused most of her energy on in the interview happened when she was 10.  What she learned from it became one of the building blocks for the foundation of her life.  This also happened to Cory when he was 12, running for student class president in middle school.

What I love about Cory’s epiphany is that he talks about his experience at that tender age giving him the knowledge that people are loving and forgiving if they know your character to be true and you own up to your mistakes.  Okay, what politician ever owns up to his or her mistakes??  When do many of us do that really?  It seems many times we tend to defend our position instead of taking responsibility for messing up when we do. When your character is true, as Cory says, you don’t mean to mess up (hopefully), but we are all human and will let one another down and will make mistakes and people are aware of that and make allowances for it as long as we’re willing to own it and apologize.

I also like what Cory says about sharing a part of yourself with others in communication — he says that is what he is always striving to do now, and you feel that when you see him speak or when you are just having a conversation with him.  I find it fascinating how his epiphany impacted his life and now even me — his epiphany included facing his fear of public speaking.  He not only conquered it, but again, in my opinion, has become one of the best orators around and I have had the opportunity to experience that and was inspired and moved forever by it.  When I interviewed him, I asked him about his talk that night and he said he had not even prepared for that speech!

Here is his take-away quote in my book (the quote that titles each epiphany) and here is the terrific article in O again.

Character ultimately rules the day.  People will see the truth of who you are even when you make mistakes.

– Cory Booker

Happy weekend/end of September reading…

About Elise Ballard

Elise Ballard is the author of Epiphany! a book of inspirational stories, aha moments and exclusive interviews from Random House Publishing
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