There are some great schools in Newark and in cities across the country, Mayor Booker points out. The challenge is to make those schools the norm. "What gives me hope is that Newark has shown these incredible islands of excellence," he says. "But we have failed in America, and in any city, to transform the islands of excellence, the great schools in cities like mine that are working, into hemispheres of hope."
Bringing all the schools in his city up to those standards of excellence is Mayor Booker's current battle. "You cannot have a superior democracy with an inferior education system," he says.
But a fight this big can't be fought alone. "We cannot achieve the level of success [we want] unless everybody gets in the game," he says. "Democracy is not a spectator sport. And what upsets me is we've lulled ourselves in America into a state of sedentary agitation, where everybody can sit on their couch and get upset about what's going on but not get off their backsides and realize that they are responsible for the change that they need to make."
Americans need to remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors and follow that example, Mayor Booker says. "We who drink deeply from wells that we did not dig, we who eat lavishly from banquet tables set up for us by the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors, are we just going to luxuriate in all that's America?" he says. "Or are we going to realize that this nation has not finished itself yet, and we must return the blessings of our ancestors by showing the same sacrifice and commitment?"