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Cory Booker's Stanford Columns Show His Transformation Into Who He Is Today

A look back at the early 1990s.

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Cory Booker was not your average college student. At Stanford the New Jersey senator was a star football player, a Rhodes Scholar, and an active voice in the student community.

Booker received a dean's award for service his senior year, he created a peer-counseling program for black college students, and he was senior class president.

Booker also also maintained a regular column in the school newspaper, The Stanford Daily, a glance at which shows his transformation from a 18-year-old dude-bro into the person Booker is today.

Some of the columns touched on Booker's experience as a tight end and receiver for the Stanford Cardinal football team and what other lessons football could teach in life.

One column discusses the campus' response to a racial epithet scrawled on a campus poster.

Stanford Daily

Booker writes that he tries not to lose focus of the larger racial problems embedded in America because of his own "self-importance."

In a 1990 column, Booker reflected on his homophobia ("I hated gays") and how he had changed.

Stanford Daily

"I was in my tolerance stage or the 'I don't give a damn if someone is gay, just as long as they don't bother me' stage. I was well trained in my tolerance," Booker writes. "I stopped telling gay jokes. Fags, flamers, and dykes became homosexuals and people of differing sexual orientation and, of course, I had a gay friend."

Booker wrote of personal testimony from a gay counselor that reminded him of his grandparents testimony about growing up black in America moved him to accept gays.

"He told me of the years of denial and the pain of always feeling different," wrote Booker. "He told me of the violence – violence from strangers and family, horrible images of beatings, destruction of property, and the daily verbal condemnations."

In another column, Booker wrote about want to help a friend with bulimia.

Stanford Daily

"I heard you. I finally heard you scream," Booker wrote. "DRY HEAVE!! DRY HEAVE!!! And then the purge."

Booker writes about his own struggles with his weight. Losing weight as a football player, having to gain it back for a new position and the feelings it brought.

"I want to help," Booker writes at the end of the column.

Booker writes how he was radically changed in his views by comments he heard about rape as a student counselor.

Stanford Daily

"Another friend in high school counseled me on the importance of drinking," wrote Booker. "'With liquor you'll get to bed quicker.'"

''I've got to find a way to snatch that snatch,'" Booker said one friend said to him.

"'The best thing for that girl would be to be tied down and screwed,'" Booker writes on another friend saying.

"My polar leap had little to do with residential education," Booker said of the transformation of his views. "It had to do with a deluge of reality. You see, I had begun listening to the raw truth from men and women discussing rape about two years ago as a peer counselor. The conversations were personal accounts, not rhetoric; they were real life, not dorm programming. It was a wake up call. I will never be the same."

Published shortly after the Rodney King verdict, Booker writes about his own instances of encountering racial prejudices, including an incident where his car was stopped and he was mistaken for a burglar.

Stanford Daily

"Finally, 'Everything checks out, you can go,'" wrote Booker. "Sheepishly I asked why. 'Oh, you fit the description of a car thief.'"

Booker also writes about his own similar size to King and what he viewed as the inner cities "waiting to spark."

"I'm a black man. I am 6 feet 3 inches tall and 230 pounds, just like King," wrote Booker. "Do I scare you? Am I a threat? Does your fear justify your actions? Twelve people believed it did. Black male: Guilty until proven innocent."

"Our inner cities are stacks of dry leaves and lumber, waiting for a spark," writes Booker. "This is but a mere campfire compared to the potential inferno awaiting us. Conditions are worsening and the Rodney King verdict is certainly not the most egregious injustice in our midst."

Booker calls for an open dialogue about sex.

Stanford Daily

"From that moment on, vagina was a Power Word, surrounded by an indelible mystique," wrote Booker of an incident in which the word was used as a child. "What was it? What did it do? Why did it make people react with such emotion?"

"Sexually transmitted diseases, rape, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and a

host of other issues alone merit a new dialogue about sexuality," Booker said. "We are starved for rational sexual discourse. Silence is not the answer, forthright discussions are."

One column touched on dating and what Booker said would be "a cure for date anxiety."

Stanford Daily

Booker set up a social experiment of sorts, having students call him to help them expand and date outside their social circle.

"From today until Friday at midnight, anyone interested in meeting someone new for the simple purpose of (hopefully) making a friend should call me up 323-2842," wrote Booker. "This is not a dating service. I don't want to know anything about you but your name, sex, sex of the person you would like to date (or better yet, to "friend") and your telephone number."

The experiment revolved around randomly setting people up on dates.

"Over the weekend my friends and I will randomly put people together and send them out on a — whatever. I challenge you to take a risk and try this, then talk to me about the results. It could be fun, and at the least you'll learn something."

In another column, Booker discussed his own opinions of his race and race relations as a whole.

Stanford Daily

"As a kid, I didn't want to be different, wrote Booker. "I didn't want to be black."

"What about the "positive" blacks I learned about in school? Well, there were one or two, but to me they were ancient anomalies. In high school my denial of race mellowed. I came to grips with the fact that I was black, but now I was black and different. My friends reinforced this belief with such remarks as 'Cory, you're not like other black people.' I was proud."

At Stanford, Booker found himself gaining a new home and a new appreciation for black history.

"I voraciously read everything I could about the black experience, I sought out black peers as friends and, admittedly, as pedagogical units," wrote Booker. "I actively participated in black cultural and political events. In short, this effort was rewarded. I gained a new consciousness. I discovered the extreme self-hate I had for everything, from my physical features to a misinformed hatred of my history.

"From Stanford's black community I was imbued with self-esteem and self-concept, without which I would be lost in mediocrity. But most importantly I found a home, in the truest sense of the word, a place where I can go and feel an unabashed sense of love, strength and community."

In "The liability of listening less," Booker wrote about what could be learned by actually engaging with individuals.

Stanford Daily

"A friend of mine told me that reading about sexual assault made her feel very uneasy about men," wrote Booker. "Instead of listening to what she was saying or feeling, the first thing to fly out of my mouth was, 'Well, you know all men aren't rapists.' Then there is dismissal. More and more I see people dismiss the comments of others because they see them as whiners, extremists, or simply biased individuals."

"I am not unlike any other college student — I want to change the world," Booker concludes. "So how can I make you listen to me? I could raise my voice, shake my fist, or even shake you — or maybe I could DO UNTO OTHERS. . . So many are unheard."

In one column, Booker talks about "spokesmodels" and lists off 10 insensitive, ignorant questions Booker had heard:

Stanford Daily

"Spokesmodel friends of mine have often told me how tired they are of answering the same questions over and over, and how burdened they are with the feeling that they have to educate the entire campus," wrote Booker." These sentiments, which I often share, are real and more than justified, yet I worry.

"Ignorance is more easily combated when it is exposed rather than hidden," Booker added.

Booker concludes by saying ignorant questions can be used as a learning experience.

"In short, a dumb question is an invaluable opportunity for both the asker and the asked."

In a 1992 column, Booker writes about his own fortunes in life and the problems with the American education system.

Stanford Daily

"God, I know how fortunate I am," Booker wrote. "One child out of every five grows up below the poverty line, one in two for black children. That's $13,000 a year for a family of four. Within poverty as well as in other socioeconomic sectors, there are myriad risk factors wreaking havoc on a generation of Americans."

"I have been blessed with the ability to make change," concluded Booker. "My choice is obvious."

In Booker's last column for The Stanford Daily, he writes of how his column became an "opportunity to look inward for answers instead of outward for acclaim."

Stanford Daily

"I feel a sense of urgency," Booker wrote. "I want to say something. That's how I began, you know; after five years at Stanford I felt as if I learned so much, that I could now endeavor to teach, inspire and enrich a community with my profound pontifications."

"So for me, my columns became an opportunity to look inward for answers instead of outward for acclaim," said Booker.

Booker ended his column with a note to his family and friends.

"To my friends and family who have watched me be continually busy and stressed for five years: I am sorry I've often given you the short end of the time stick. You have made it all possible and worthwhile. Thank you for your love and patience. I am truly blessed."

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at andrew.kaczynski@buzzfeed.com.

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