A technology industry awards dinner in a Washington, D.C., ballroom might be the last place you would expect to hear about life on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.
But then again, you also wouldn’t have expected to hear from a man who until fairly recently was considered a favorite to be the Republican Party standard bearer in 2016.
Yet here were two relatively young stars of the Senate, Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, being honored Wednesday by the Consumer Technology Association which represents about 2,200 tech companies. In separate speeches, both spoke of a shared commitment to technology and keeping government regulators from stifling innovation.
When Booker concluded his remarks with a reference to Wednesday’s announcement that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, and lines from the poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes, dinner attendees at the Marriott Marquis might have wondered what they had just heard. The informal consensus was that it wasn’t the kind of speech you would normally hear at a dinner for a technology association — or any other trade association.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
To be sure, Booker also talked about his efforts to keep the Federal Aviation Administration from imposing undue burdens on drones, but his remarks were dominated by personal anecdotes and a call for Americans to focus on the past versus the future, rather than blue versus red.
Rubio stuck to more familiar topics with the Florida Republican lamenting the end of his White House campaign but declaring that the “new American century” would come about, whether Americans liked it or not.