Over the weekend, the South by Southwest conference kicked off its first day with an opening speech by Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). Booker gained national attention last year when he was a possible contender to run as Vice President with Hillary Clinton. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine ended up getting the nomination. This year’s lineup is starkly different from 2016. Last year, then President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event to talk about technology and the future of America. But this year, President Donald Trump will not be speaking at the event. Many of the event’s sessions relate to what role with technology play in this new political era.

Optimism in Uncertainty: South by Southwest’s Opening Speech

The uncertainties and insecurities of the future did not stop Senator Booker from opening with an optimistic message. He refers to everyone in America as a “physical manifestation of a larger conspiracy of love.” Booker began his speech with throwing it back to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address when he encountered Frederick Douglas. During this divisive time in the country, these two men showed a sign of unity. And Corey Booker called for more moments like this in our present day society.

Booker brings up two problems facing our country. The first is tolerance. Booker says that calling this country a country of tolerance is troublesome. It pulls the people farther away from what is written in the Declaration of Independence as a call to love each other. The second problem he presents involves technology. Booker casts out the isolation and lack of humility it has caused. He says the solution to these problems is to be more accepting of the things that divide, and practice what we preach when it comes to love and understanding.

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Senator Booker drives home his solution of love with a story about his mentor. While studying to be a lawyer and working as a city councilman in Newark, New Jersey, Booker men a tenet leader named Frank Hutchins. Hutchins was known for running the longest rent strike in Newark’s history. As an older man he implored Booker to get to know and love the people who live in dangerous neighborhoods in order to solve their problems. Throughout his final years, Booker says Hutchins continued to inspire him to give a voice to the voiceless.

“I see you. I love you.” Those are the last words Booker’s mentor says to him before he dies. It sounds like a mantra, but this is Booker’s call to action. The senator asks everyone to start seeing people and all their struggles, and joining in the fight for a better country through love.

The opening speech for South by Southwest was closer to sounding like one performed on the campaign trail, rather than a technology conference and music festival. But Corey Booker gave a commanding presentation that was well written and energized. I wished Booker talked more about the future of technology and had ideas of how to make it more inclusive than isolative. This would have made for a stronger call to action. He’s no President Obama, but Senator Booker is a strong voice during this shift in American politics.

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