"The American Dream is alive and wild in our streets...and I have to say as I stand here today, I am the proudest mayor in America."
On a windy morning in May beneath a garland of balloons, Cory Booker is heralding the opening of the new Pitney Bowes mail delivery plant near Newark's ample waterfront, not far from its first-rate international airport. The plant will bring 180 new jobs; it was a nonnegotiable point of the deal that Newark residents be given priority. A red ribbon is stretched across the dais, which Booker and others cut with big scissors and equally big smiles.
On the way back to City Hall, Booker seems upbeat about the Pitney Bowes event, although he laments the absence of TV cameras. As it happens, the local station is down at the courthouse today, covering the conviction—nearly three years after the crime—of one of the schoolyard killers.
It's where the cameras should be. Getting closure on that horrendous event is critical to Newark's psyche. Yet Booker craves the day when the narrative finally shifts for good, when the almost prurient fascination with the blood that has been shed in this city fades, and the Newark story is a glorious one—about a phoenix, as he frequently describes this place, rising from the ashes. And there's nothing impossible about that dream—as long as all hands are on deck, and someone is willing to lead the way.
"So many people go through life as a weather vane, blown around by the wind," Booker says. "I'd rather be a compass."