Friday, November 9, 2012

Governor Chris Christie, His Mother’s Son

Governor Chris Christi, His Mother’s Son

One day, while talking about Hurricane Sandy, a reporter asked Governor Christie if he would consider running for President in 2016. He answered, he didn’t know what the future would bring, but right now he was focused on the job the people elected him to do in New Jersey. Then he said something that struck a cord with me. He spoke of the best advice his mother ever gave him, which was “Do the job you have in front of you as well as you can and the future will take care of itself and it’s been great advice that she’s given my through the ups and downs of my professional career.” I cannot tell you how many times I have said that to my own girls throughout their academic studies. It’s good advice for anyone, and I was happy to hear those words spoken by the governor of New Jersey.

If you look beyond all the political rhetoric, you can tell a lot about a politician, as with many people, about how they speak of their family members. This is especially true when listening to how they speak of their parents, the people who undeniably had the biggest influence in shaping who there are today. Chris Christie lost his mother eight years ago, but you can tell, by the way he speaks about her, that she is still with him, guiding him with her sage words and her love. I did a little research to see what I could learn about Christie’s family. It turns out he speaks of them a lot. He gave a speech at the Republican National Convention and it is only now that I have read the transcript. I can so relate to so many of the things he had to say, especially about his family. I have decided to post a large portion of it here so I can refresh my mind in four years, when he will undoubtedly be running for President of the United States. I want to remember why I like him so much.

Now I am the son of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother. My dad, who I'm blessed to have here with me tonight, is gregarious, outgoing, and lovable.  My mom, who I lost eight years ago, was the enforcer. Now she made sure we all knew who set the rules.  I'll tell it to you this way, in the automobile of life, dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver. Now they both lived hard lives.  Dad grew up in poverty. And after returning from Army service, he worked at the Breyers Ice Cream plant in the 1950s.  Now with that job and the G.I. bill, he put himself through Rutgers University at night to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.

 And our first family picture, our first family picture was on his graduation day with my mom beaming next to him, six months pregnant with me.  Now mom also came from nothing.  She was raised by a single mother who took three different buses every day to get to work. And mom spent the time that she was supposed to be a kid actually raising children, her younger brother and younger sister.  She was tough as nails and did not suffer fools at all. And the truth was she could not afford to.  She spoke the truth, bluntly, directly, and without much varnish.  I am her son.

I was her son as I listened to ``Darkness on the Edge of Town'' with my high school friends on the Jersey Shore.  I was her son when I moved into that studio apartment with Mary Pat to start a marriage that's now 26 years old. I was her son as I coached our sons, Andrew and Patrick, on the fields of Mendham, and as I watched with pride as our daughters Sarah and Bridget, marched with their soccer teams in the Labor Day parade. And I am still her son today as governor, following the rules she taught me, to speak from the heart, and to fight for your principles. You see, mom never thought you would get extra credit just for speaking the truth. And the greatest lesson that mom ever taught me though was this one.  She told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. Now she said to always pick being respected.  She told me that love without respect was always fleeting, but that respect could grow into real and lasting love.  Now, of course, she was talking about women. But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership.  In fact, I think that advice applies to America more than ever today…You see, we are the United States of America. Now -- now -- now it is up to us.  We must lead the way our citizens live, to lead as my mother insisted I live, not by avoiding truths, especially the hard ones, but by facing up to them and being better for it.

Chris Christie’s words resonate with me. In the course of this exercise, I learned that Christie’s mom was of Sicilian descent and a strong influence in his life. It hits me that he and I share something much greater than politics. I can relate to his upbringing, his mother’s words, his bold, outspoken truths, his uncaring attitude about what others think about his truths. It’s how he grew up, his family values, how he still talks about his mom today though she passed on eight years ago. I get choked up as a realize she wasn’t here to see him elected governor and she won’t be here to see him elected president one day. But just as sure as I know my mom is looking down on me, guiding and protecting me, I am sure his mother is too. His mother is always on his mind and in his heart and she taught him well. He really is her son.

“I’m going to do the job I have now as best I can,” explains the Governor. “Do first things first and my future, whatever it is will take care of itself. I’m honored to be the Governor of New Jersey. That’s all I’m worried about right now.”

Link to entire speech, well worth reading: Transcript Of Chris Christie's Speech

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