MORRISTOWN – When Cory Booker arrived at a March For Our Lives-sponsored picnic Thursday afternoon, one of the teenagers who quickly surrounded him asked him to say something inspirational “in 30 seconds.”
“Thirty seconds?” he asked, quizzically.
Still, Booker, who is seldom at a loss for words, took up the challenge.
He said he’s convinced the student-led gun control movement finally is going to make a difference. But it won’t be easy.
“Don’t give up, stay with it,” he said. And if you do that, he said, just about anything is possible.
With his 30 seconds up, Booker moved on to talk to reporters.
He said the gun control campaign reminds him of both the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. That of course remains to be seen.
And cynics may even see a weakness in Booker’s analogy. After all, the massive anti-war protests of the late 1960’s did not stop the war, nor did they stop the reelection in 1972 of Richard Nixon.
But today was not really a time for sober reflection.
It was a time to celebrate – if that’s the right word – a movement that truly has taken off.
Fueled by last February’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, Fla. the March For Our Lives campaign is a summer tour around the country led by Parkland students, most notably David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, both of whom were present today in Morristown’s Lidgerwood Park. Hogg, who has become a celebrity of sorts, posed for pictures with many in the crowd.
A festive atmosphere ensued, complete with hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, bottled water and blaring rock music dating back to the 1980’s.
In his remarks to reporters, Booker said polls show that a majority of Americans support more thorough background checks and a ban on semi-automatic weapons, two principal goals of the students’ gun control movement.
Of course, one group that doesn’t is Congress. And it’s too simplistic to simply point fingers at Republicans. Many Democrats from rural states view guns and gun ownership much more favorably than they do in New Jersey.
Booker acknowledged that reality, but said it’s time for the views of Congress to catch up to the public.
Or put another way. It’s time for voters to make sure Congress is more receptive to public sentiment on gun control. That can be done by putting new people in Congress.
Which was why a main goal of the day was to register young people to vote. How was that going?
One of the volunteers at the “register to vote” table, a young woman from New Hampshire, said she had a steady stream of visitors, but some were not old enough to vote.
Booker tried to help. As he moved through the scrum surrounding him, he pointed to Mikie Sherrill, the Democratic congressional candidate in District 11 who was also in attendance, just to make sure people knew who she was.
Earlier in the day, both Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy, addressed a crowd of about 250.
“All the naysayers who said this movement was going to fall apart last spring – they’re wrong,” Tammy Murphy said.
When it was the governor’s time, he said that his generation (Murphy turns 61 this month) has failed when it comes to guns.
And Murphy said that is why what many of today’s students are doing is so important.
“They will succeed where our generation has not,” Murphy said – hopefully.