Cory Booker & Black Progress

Image Credit: Cory Booker for Senate

This Halloween at noon, Newark Mayor Cory Booker will be sworn in to the United States Senate.  This is a really good thing.

First of all, as a progressive, I’m glad this Senate seat is staying blue.  Moreover, I’m a big proponent of diversity and social progress, which is why I’m really excited here.  When Booker was elected on October 16th, he set the stage to tie the record for the greatest number of black US Senators ever serving at the same time.  When sworn in, he will bring the tally to a grand total of…Two.

Of those two, he will be the only one actually elected to the upper chamber, as Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina was appointed from the House of Representatives to fill a vacancy, and won’t be on the ballot to keep his seat until 2014.  So Booker is the first Black senator elected to the Senate since Barack Obama in 2004.

Image Credit: North Charleston (flickr)

Sen. Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina

This is also a good thing because I think he’s a good guy whose heart is in the right place.  As Mayor, he lived on food stamps for a week to focus attention on the 850,000 New Jersey residents who rely on food stamps to get by.  A tough challenge for anyone, and he stuck it out.

I’ve got another one for you – when a neighbor’s house was on fire, Booker risked his life and ran inside the burning building to rescue her daughter.  That’s kind of a big deal.  Would you do that?

In addition to his habit of tweeting with constituents, this event was a perfect embodiment of servant leadership.  Exactly what I think anyone would want in their U.S. Senator.

As he prepares to take office, I am reminded of the true singularity, especially in modern times, of African-Americans being elected to the highest positions in our Government.

Let’s take the Senate, for example.  Booker is only the 4th African-American Senator elected by popular vote.  With 3 appointed and 2 selected by State legislatures, there have only been 9 black Senators in total.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

P.B.S. Pinchback – The first black US Governor

Similarly, there have been only 4 black Governors of US States in our history.  One was before reconstruction, and one was Lieutenant Governor and succeeded to office when the Governor stepped down.  Only two: Douglas Wilder in 1989 and Deval Patrick in 2007, have been elected as the Chief Executive of their state.

Diversity is a good thing, and I’m very happy to see that the US Senate is becoming more diverse.  This is a reflection of the social progress made daily across our great nation as we become a more and more diverse America.

Diversity is good because it indicates social progress and maturity.  When we think of nations that are intolerant of diverse ideas in social, political, or religious circles, we tend to categorize them as less advanced than us, and in some cases, barbaric.  We make similar conclusions about areas of the nation that are viewed to be less accepting to diverse ideas as well.

Furthermore, diversity is a strong indicator of individual mobility and access in a society.  The more tolerant a society is of people from diverse backgrounds, the more opportunities those people will have in that society, leading to greater mobility, affluence, and so on.  So diversity is good for an economy.

Finally, diversity just makes things run better.  Numerous studies have shown that companies with a more diverse group of employees perform at a higher level.

So as a progressive, a black American, and a pragmatist, I’m glad to see this win.  Socially, it shows that we’ve made a lot of progress.  Functionally, it will make our Government more effective.  And culturally, it will help usher in more opportunities to Americans of all types.

Though there remains a lot of work to be done, I’m glad that African-Americans are making progress,  and as we move forward, so will America.

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