do what I did, but they do it every day. I can go on and on. I just live in a city that I'm lucky to be the mayor of and as a result my acts get a little more attention, but it’s not unique.
EBONY: Back in 2009, President Obama offered you a White House position, but you turned it down because you said you’re committed to Newark. You’re a Washington, D.C. native, Stanford and Yale graduate, so where does that commitment to Newark come from? Why Newark?
CB: When I was just a twenty-something, I came to Newark and I found a connection to the city in a spiritual way. I found a connection here and people here that reminded me so much of my roots and my own family. My great-grandfather had a community of people who helped him pay for college and I know I am who I am because people in my community made sacrifices for me and those are the kind of people who I found in Newark. I found a community of people still struggling to make real the American Dream and I want to help with that. So many of us are drinking from the fountain of liberty that we did not dig, so I’m here to do my part for this city that gave me a chance and a shot to help lead the community in very difficult times.
EBONY: As an alumna of Hampton University, it’s such an honor that you will be giving the commencement speech at Hampton’s graduation this Sunday. What words of wisdom can guests and graduates look forward to in your speech?
CB: Well it’s my pleasure. I have a lot of connections to Hampton one of my chiefs of staff was a Hampton grad, so I’ve been touched by Hampton and I’m humbled to be asked to speak. I'm still working on my speech, but I'm hoping to share what’s at the root of Hampton and really all [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] HBCUs, that we are all a part of a larger historical narrative. We are a central part of the evolution of the American spirit. We all play a role in that and we are all standing on someone else’s shoulders, yet we view ourselves as small when we are large. That has to change.
EBONY: You lost the election for mayor in 2002 only for you to come back again and win in 2006. But even in your electoral victories and being in your second term as mayor, public service is often a thankless and highly criticized job. How are you able to keep going and keep viewing yourself as “large,” as you say, even when circumstances or even other people tell you that you’re small?
Mother Teresa was asked in an interview, “How do you judge success?” And she answered something like, “I wasn't called to be successful, I've been called to be faithful.” So, remembering that is how I’m able to keep perspective and keep going.
I’m going to have setbacks and failures; I'm not going to see change right away all of the time or most of the time. But everybody I've ever respected has failed at one thing or another. I've definitely fallen on my face. But I've also had a comparatively easy life. John Lewis and I were just featured on the [PBA] show “Finding Your Roots,” and here I am being compared to this legendary civil rights activist who has lived through a time and a remarkable amount of oppression that this generation just hasn't known and I haven't know. We aren’t storming the beaches in Normandy, or dealing with the Great Depression or the strife of segregation or enduring massive violent battles in our country. We still have great problems and challenges in this generation, but we have not been asked to show the same level of courage as past generations. So I just feel we’ve been given a unique opportunity to learn from the lessons of the past and I just want to live a life that proves worthy of those lessons. That’s my focus.
EBONY: Forgive me, I have to ask this question because too many ladies out there would kill me if I didn’t: are you hoping to settle down and start a family in the near future?
CB: [Laughs] What “ladies”? Did my mother put you up to this? [Laughs] I just I think everybody wants to have that settled life and even God wants us to “have life and have it more abundantly.” Everybody wants to find their soul mate and I’m no different. That’s definitely what I want in the future.
EBONY: Last year you mentioned being too busy to date. Have you found that soul mate yet or are you still looking?
CB: Still looking for that