March 19, 2013

Newark Mayor Cory Booker Asks Cornell to Donate Speaker’s Fee to Charity

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A convocation speaker can pocket tens of thousands of dollars for delivering a 20-minute speech to college graduates. This year, however, Cornell’s convocation speaker, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D-N.J.), has asked the University to donate his speaker’s fee to charity.

“We offered Booker an honorarium, which he requested be donated to a Newark-based charity,” said Roneal Desai ’13, chair of the convocation committee, who added that Booker donates almost all of his speaking fees to charity.

Desai said he could not disclose how much the University offered to pay Booker.

The only financial compensation Booker is receiving from the University to speak at convocation is money to cover the costs of transportation from Ithaca to Newark, according to University Trustee Andrew Tisch ’71, chairman of the executive committee of Loews Corporation.

“I think it was extremely admirable for him to make such a request, and I think only further speaks to his commitment to the public sector,” Desai said.

Booker, who is preparing to publicly announce his candidacy for the Senate, will speak at the Class of 2013’s convocation on May 25.

As mayor of Newark, Booker receives a salary of approximately $135,000 a year — a perhaps paltry figure compared to the more than $1 million he told The New York Times he has made giving speeches. Despite being slammed by critics like state Senator Ronald Rice (D-N.J.) for being “the first mayor I know of who has an agent to keep him moving around the country,” Booker has maintained that his speaking engagements help, not hurt, Newark.

Booker said to The New York Times that his primary motivation for accepting money for speeches is to funnel nearly all of those funds back into nonprofit organizations.

After earning $25,000 from speaking at a Newark preparatory school, Booker said he wrote a check for that sum the same day to a nonprofit. And when he was given $40,000 for another speech, he donated the money to a drug-treatment center, according to The New York Times.

The charitable side of Booker has done little to silence some skeptics of the mayor, who say he is more interested in celebrity than governance.

“I don’t care that you’re in Vogue magazine or Esquire. That’s not important to me as a citizen of this state,” Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-N.J.), who is also considering a Senate run, said to Politicker N.J. “What’s important to me is what will your positions be on Capitol Hill?”

But Booker, whose name has appeared in headlines like The Washington Post’s “Cory Booker[:] more style than substance?” and The New York Times’ “Promise vs. Reality in Newark on Mayor’s Watch,” says his critics do not faze him.

“Life is about purpose not popularity, significance not celebrity. If u have no detractors, critics or adversaries ur probably not doing much,” he tweeted to followers in 2012.

Original Author: Akane Otani